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Closing arguments set in W.Va. justice’s criminal trial

October 9, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal jury is close to deliberating criminal charges against a suspended West Virginia Supreme Court justice accused of using his office for his own benefit.

The defense rested Tuesday after Justice Allen Loughry was questioned for more than six hours over two days about his trips and the use of state-owned property from which the government contends he benefited personally.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court, after which the jury of 10 women and two men is set to begin deliberations.

Most of the 22 counts against Loughry involve wire fraud allegations that he used state vehicles and gas cards for personal use. He’s also charged with mail fraud, making false statements and witness tampering.

Defense attorney John Carr asked Loughry about odometer readings on fuel receipts that were lower than previous readings for the same car he drove on the same day.

Loughry declared, “These records are a mess.”

That was one of the more emotional responses from Loughry, who generally was calm and polite during detailed grilling from Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Wright. Loughry often responded with “thank you” when asked a question or given copies of exhibits entered into evidence.

Former Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury appeared briefly on the witness stand Tuesday, a contrast to his lengthy testimony before a House of Delegates impeachment hearing in July.

Canterbury contradicted testimony from others who said he allowed Loughry to have a home office, including taking an antique desk from his Supreme Court office. Loughry returned the desk and a green leather couch owned by the state in late 2017 after media inquiries about their whereabouts.

Canterbury said after Loughry was elected in 2012, they met to go over administrative matters. But Canterbury said he never used the term “home office” and the desk wasn’t discussed.

“I told him he could have a computer, a printer,” Canterbury said. “That was the extent of what he could take home.”

The indictment accuses Loughry of lying to federal investigators by saying he was unaware about the historical significance and value of the $42,000 state-owned desk. Loughry testified he thought it was an old desk, but former Justice Brent Benjamin testified last week Loughry knew about the desk’s history and Loughry said he was “very fortunate to have this.”

A majority of the justices, including Loughry, voted to fire Canterbury in January 2017 soon after Loughry took over as chief justice.

Canterbury said he later became “outraged” when he found out Loughry had the desk at his house.

“I had no idea he had a desk,” Canterbury said. As a member of the state Capitol Building Commission, “I was protective of the campus, its furnishings and its artifacts.”

Loughry, 48, was suspended from his seat earlier this year after the state Judicial Investigation Commission said he kept secret a December federal subpoena served on the Supreme Court. He was replaced as chief justice in February after the other justices received another subpoena and found out about the first one.

The House impeached Loughry and three other justices in August over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty.

Justice Beth Walker was cleared last week in a trial before the state Senate. Loughry, Justice Margaret Workman and retired Justice Robin Davis face impeachment trials later.

A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, resigned before impeachment proceedings began.

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