Ketchum plea hearing set for Aug. 23
CHARLESTON — Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum is scheduled to appear in court later this month to plead guilty in relation to misuse of state money and property.
Ketchum, 75, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced July 31. U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver set Ketchum’s hearing for 11 a.m. on Aug. 23.
A federal wire fraud conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Ketchum announced his resignation from the Supreme Court in early July, becoming effective July 27.
His resignation meant he was not subject to impeachment proceedings in the West Virginia Legislature, and he subsequently was not named in the articles of impeachment against the four sitting Supreme Court justices adopted by the West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Ketchum used a state-owned vehicle to commute from his home in Huntington to the court in Charleston starting in 2012, according to the information filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.
An information is a way of bringing charges against a person in court. It cannot be filed without a defendant’s consent, and it usually indicates the defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.
Ketchum also charged the state for the gas he used, according to the information. The vehicle, a 2007 Buick Lucerne, was supposed to be used only for business.
Ketchum also used the car to travel to a “private golf club in western Virginia,” according to the information.
Ketchum traveled to The Olde Farm private golf club in Bristol, Virginia, Deanna Eder, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said at a news conference on July 31.
During one such trip, in August 2014, the round-trip mileage was nearly 400 miles, and the total value of his use of the car was $220.80. Ketchum used the state car to drive to the golf club at least seven other times from 2011 to 2014, prosecutors said in the information.
Ketchum’s plea agreement was the result of an ongoing federal investigation into the West Virginia Supreme Court, Stuart said on July 31.
Stuart wouldn’t comment on whether any other justices or Supreme Court staff would face federal criminal charges, but he said he would announce when the investigation was complete.
In addition to Ketchum, Justice Allen Loughry faces 23 charges resulting from the federal investigation.
Loughry was indicted on 16 counts of fraud and swindles, three counts of making false statements to federal investigators, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice.
Loughry’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 2.
Loughry has been suspended from the bench without pay since June 8. On June 6, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission handed down 32 charges against Loughry, alleging he violated the West Virginia Judicial Code of Conduct by misusing state resources and lying about it to lawmakers, the public and the media.