Loughry guilty on 11 of 22 charges
CHARLESTON — Almost a year after West Virginians learned state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry had a $32,000 couch in his court office and a piece of historic state-owned furniture in his home, a jury convicted him of 11 of 22 federal charges Friday.
The jury of 10 women and two men convicted Loughry of seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of making false statements to federal investigators, and one count each of witness tampering and mail fraud.
The jury handed over its verdict Friday following 2 1/2 days of deliberation.
Jurors voted to acquit Loughry of nine counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.
Jurors were deadlocked on one count of wire fraud, and federal prosecutors were exploring their options in regard to that charge, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said after the verdict Friday afternoon.
Loughry, 48, sat still in the courtroom as the clerk read the verdict and as U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver ruled Loughry could remain out of jail on a personal recognizance bond until his sentencing hearing on Jan. 16, 2019.
Loughry and his attorney, John Carr, declined to comment about the verdict after the trial.
The verdict brought to close a trial that began with a day-long jury selection process on Oct. 2. Testimony in the trial began Oct. 3, and evidence in the case was handed over to the jury about 3:35 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10.
Loughry, a native of Tucker County who was elected to the Supreme Court in 2012, was tried on 17 counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, two counts of making false statements to federal investigators and one count of witness tampering.
About 1 p.m. Friday, the jury sent a question to the court, asking what would happen if they were deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict on a single count. They also asked if that would affect just that count or if it affected all of the charges.
Copenhaver instructed the jury that being deadlocked on a single charge would affect only that charge. Copenhaver told attorneys he didn’t believe the situation called for an Allen charge, that is, an instruction from a judge telling the jury to continue deliberating when they’re deadlocked over a verdict.
About three hours later, roughly 3:55 p.m., the jury returned with a note telling Copenhaver they reached a verdict on all but one of the charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Wright asked Copenhaver to issue an Allen charge to the jury, and Carr didn’t oppose the suggestion.
Copenhaver declined to issue the Allen charge, and he instructed the jury to fill out the verdict form but leave blank the verdict line for the deadlocked charge.
The jury returned to the courtroom with the verdict a couple of minutes after 4 p.m.
The jury convicted Loughry on seven wire fraud counts. All of the wire fraud charges on which Loughry was convicted related to his use of state vehicles and credit cards for travel during weekends and holidays and to book-signing events at The Greenbrier resort, according to evidence presented during the case.
One of the two convictions about making false statements showed Loughry lied to federal investigators about using the vehicles and credit cards for personal business. In the other false statement conviction, the jury found Loughry lied to federal investigators about whether he knew a state-owned desk he had in his home was a “Cass Gilbert desk.”
In the West Virginia Capitol, “Cass Gilbert furniture” commonly refers to furniture that was selected by employees at the famed architect’s firm during construction of the Capitol in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Loughry said he didn’t know the desk had such a distinction, and by his personal definition, the desk was not a “Cass Gilbert desk.”
Loughry testified that seven people who testified about conversations with Loughry in which he mentioned Cass Gilbert desks were either misremembering their interactions or altogether lying, possibly for political purposes.
In his witness tampering conviction, the jury found Loughry attempted to make Kim Ellis, director of administrative services for the court, misremember conversations they had about the cost of renovations to his office at the Supreme Court in the East Wing of the Capitol.
Finally, for mail fraud, the jury found Loughry defrauded the Pound Civil Justice Institute in Baltimore by violating the institute’s travel policy and causing employees there to mail him a check for $488.60. Of that amount, $402.60 accounted for reimbursement for travel expenses even though Loughry traveled to the institute in a state-owned vehicle.
Wright and Greg McVey said that along with the power Loughry gained when he was elected to the Supreme Court in 2014 came “arrogance, came an unbridled sense of entitlement, the likes of which the Supreme Court had not experienced.”
They presented multiple sets of records they said showed Loughry reserved and used state vehicles to travel to personal events, including book signings at The Greenbrier and visits to his parents in Tucker County.
With the help of court employees and FBI agents, Wright and McVey went line by line through Supreme Court vehicle reservation records, state credit card records, call and text logs from Loughry’s personal cellphone and Loughry’s personal bank statements.
The prosecutors also argued that Loughry abused state resources and defrauded the state, and when his peers on the court or other court staff attempted to question his actions, he attempted to intimidate them or retaliated by “tattling” to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Loughry and Carr maintained Loughry had no intent to defraud the state and his use of state resources was done in the course of conducting court business throughout the state and at his home.
Carr also argued the charges against Loughry were a result of dirty politics, bad blood and infighting among the Supreme Court justices.
Loughry was accused of defrauding the state by using government-owned vehicles for personal trips and attempting to make other court employees lie on the record by him providing them with false information or memories and intimidating at least one employee.
He also was accused of defrauding American University and the Pound Civil Justice Institute by having them reimburse him for mileage for trips he took in state vehicles.
Loughry didn’t deny during the trial that he used a state vehicle for the trips indicated in the prosecutors’ case, but he said every trip he took was part of official court business.
He also said he had no intention to defraud the state by using the vehicles, and he denied attempting to sway the court employees.
After the verdict was handed down, Stuart issued a statement thanking jurors for their work and offering sympathies to Loughry’s family.
“This is not a sad day for West Virginia but rather a hopeful one,” Stuart said. “The system worked. Corruption was rooted out. Confidence is restored.”
Loughry has been suspended from the bench since June 8. He is the subject of three cases accusing him of misconduct while in office.
On June 6, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission filed a 32-count statement of charges accusing Loughry of violating the Judicial Code of Conduct, the ethical code for judges in West Virginia, by misusing state resources and lying to lawmakers, the news media and the public about it.
The commission’s case is on hold pending closure of the federal criminal case.
On Aug. 13, the West Virginia House of Delegates adopted 11 articles of impeachment against four current and former justices: Loughry, Margaret Workman, Beth Walker and Robin Davis.
Loughry is named in seven of those charges.
After a two-day impeachment trial, the West Virginia Senate voted Oct. 2 against removing Walker from office, opting instead for a public censure.
It’s unclear how Loughry’s conviction or state Supreme Court rulings will affect his impeachment trial in the Senate, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 13.
Reach Lacie Pierson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1723 or follow @laciepierson on Twitter.