Justice Loughry arraigned on federal charges
Suspended West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry pleaded not guilty Friday to charges in a sweeping federal indictment that accuses him of mail and wire fraud, witness tampering and making false statements to the FBI.
During an arraignment in U.S. Magistrate Court in Charleston before Magistrate Dwane Tinsley, Loughry declared his innocence to 22 charges - 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and three counts of making false statements to a federal agent.
The trial date for Loughry has been set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 28. He will appear before U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver.
If convicted of all the charges, Loughry faces a sentence of up to 395 years, a fine of up to $5.5 million and supervised release period of three years.
The indictment said Loughry falsely claimed mileage for trips on which he drove a Supreme Court vehicle and used a government credit card for gasoline. According to the indictment, Loughry also used government vehicles and credit cards for personal use under the false pretenses that he was using the vehicles for official business, then lied to other Supreme Court justices about his vehicle usage.
Loughry also is accused of obtaining under false pretenses and converting to his own personal use a valuable, historic desk that belonged to the Supreme Court and taking it to his residence for a “home office.”
The indictment said he attempted to conceal his conduct by lying about his actions to government investigators and others and attempting to deflect attention away from himself “by accusing others of malfeasance and engaging in other fraudulent conduct.”
Multiple top state officials, including West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead, have called for Loughry’s resignation. Some Democratic legislative leaders have called for impeachment proceedings to remove Loughry from office.
Prior to his indictment, Loughry was suspended without pay by the state Supreme Court. The court also requested suspension of Loughry's license to practice law in West Virginia during the judicial disciplinary proceedings.
The Judicial Investigation Commission filed 32 charges against Loughry on June 6 and recommended he be suspended without pay while the disciplinary proceedings against him move forward. On June 8, the Supreme Court ordered Loughry be suspended.
Loughry has been embroiled in controversy along with the other justices over questionable Supreme Court spending – revealed in an Eyewitness News iTeam investigative story – that showed a $900,000 renovation project ballooned to more than $3.7 million.
The total cost for the work in Loughry’s office was just more than $363,000. Some major expenditures for office furniture were included in that total - namely, the sectional sofa with a price tag of nearly $32,000, complete with $1,700 in throw pillows.
Loughry maintained he did nothing wrong and only had limited involvement in the work plans, and he pointed at former court administrator Steve Canterbury as being in charge of making the decisions on renovations. Canterbury, however, said Loughry was intricately involved.
A drawing made by Loughry himself, however, was obtained by the iTeam. It showed a $7,500 wood medallion in the floor of his office and outlines the floor plan for his office with detailed notes from Loughry about what he wanted and where he wanted it.
News of the Supreme Court expenditures created a firestorm in the West Virginia Legislature with several lawmakers calling for an investigation of Loughry and possibly impeachment proceedings.
Lawmakers also passed a resolution that voters will consider in November that would put part of the Supreme Court’s budget under legislative control.
After much of the controversy surfaced, the justices voted to replace Loughry as chief justice and make Justice Margaret Workman the chief justice.
Meanwhile, Loughry also was lambasted in a state audit, spurred by Eyewitness News iTeam investigative stories, about how Loughry used vehicles, including rental cars when he traveled for conferences. The audit found he used the vehicles for personal use because of the mileage he drove.
A calendar from the legislative auditor’s report showing Loughry’s state vehicle use indicated he failed to provide a destination or a description or a need for the vehicle.
Loughry issued a letter saying he disagrees with the audit's findings, which include a section that said he was wrong to take home a historic Cass Gilbert desk from the Capitol and not report it as a benefit. That desk has been appraised at $42,000.
Records obtained by the iTeam later showed that more than $2,400 was spent for two occasions to have furniture moved from Loughry’s chambers to the state warehouse. However, that total includes the cost of moving the Cass Gilbert desk and a sofa that was removed from Loughry’s office. Both of those items were taken to his house. Loughry contends he was setting up a home office as allowed by court policy. The court has no written policy, however, on home offices. Loughry ordered a new desk and a new $32,000 couch for his chambers when he took office in January 2013.
In 2012, Loughry was elected to a 12-year term on the Supreme Court and served as chief justice in 2017. The court voted to replace Loughry as chief justice in February 2018. Court records said the justices voted to replace Loughry as chief justice after they learned he did not tell them about a federal subpoena that was sent to the Supreme Court.
A native of Tucker County, he obtained law degrees from American University, Washington College of Law, the University of London and Capital University School.