by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON – Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart called it a “solemn day for West Virginia” as he assured those assembled for his press conference today that “this U.S. Attorney is not celebrating and thumping his chest today.”
Stuart had just announced a federal grand jury meeting in Charleston yesterday (June 19) had issued an indictment of Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, II, 47. Stuart went on to outline the charges, declaring they are especially egregious because of Loughry’s position on the court.
The indictment, Stuart said, was unsealed earlier this morning and Loughry was arrested at about 7:30 a.m. and brought to the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building in Charleston for processing.
Stuart said Loughry was still in the building when he began his 10 a.m. press conference. He expects arraignment to occur “sometime this week.”
Loughry is accused of using a government vehicle and submitting mileage claims for reimbursement; using a government vehicle and credit card on personal trips; and unlawfully converting to his own use a “historically significant piece of furniture – a Cass Gilbert desk.
Stuart said, in response to a question, that he believes the most significant charge against the justice is that he “attempted to corruptly obstruct and influence testimonial evidence of a Supreme Court employee in an imminent grand jury investigation.”
While the U.S. attorney refused to name the employee so obstructed, he said the identity would likely be revealed in future court proceedings.
“A federal grand jury has charged a justice on the state’s highest court with numerous and serious federal crimes,” Stuart said. “This is a solemn day for all West Virginia. On this day – West Virginia Day – the people of our great state deserve better. They have worked too hard and too long to tolerate misconduct that strikes at the heart of the public’s trust of their elected officials. I intend to do all that I can to ensure that our people have the honest government they deserve.”
Throughout his comments, Stuart stressed that Loughry is “considered innocent until proven guilty. We intend to prove his guilt, but he has not been found guilty of anything at this point. For the past several weeks, public officials across West Virginia have been quick to condemn Justice Loughry, perhaps with the hope that the crisis in public confidence with the Supreme Court could be expediently resolved by lodging all culpability on just one person – Justice Loughry.”
Stuart continued, “That may or may not, however, be the case. Our work continues on many fronts, including additional areas of corruption. I urge public officials and the public to respect this process and allow the process to play out.”
Rumors have circulated for weeks concerning a federal investigation into the court. Sources insisted nearly three weeks ago that Stuart had obtained indictments of Loughry and had reached a plea agreement with another justice. There was no mention of a second justice today.
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nick Boshears stood beside Stuart as he made today’s announcement.
Stuart, appointed by President Donald Trump, said the administration has focused a great deal of attention on public corruption. In a prepared statement, Boshears said, “Public corruption is a top investigative priority for the FBI.”
Stuart also confirmed that it was Loughry who first brought matters of concern at the court to the attention of the U.S. Attorney. “Because you report it does not absolve you from being involved,” he added.
Stuart praised the media for investigating allegations against Loughry. WCHS TV reporter Kennie Bass first broke the story of elaborate spending by the court on renovations for justices’ offices. Later media accounts have detailed Loughry’s movement of furniture from the capitol to his home and subsequent return of that furniture when the media determined where it was.
Loughry is well-known for his book on political corruption in West Virginia. According to the indictment, Loughry was elected to a 12-year term in November 2012 and took office on January 1, 2013. He wasted little time developing a scheme to enrich himself and mislead the court, according to the indictment, which says it started in “approximately June 2013.”
Sixteen of the counts are for mail fraud; two are for wire fraud; three are for making false statements to a federal agent; and the one count of witness tampering. If convicted of all counts, Loughry faces up to 395 years in prison; a fine of $5.5 million; and a term of supervised release of up to three years.
Loughry is currently suspended from his position at the court. Proceedings before the supreme court would strip him of his position but he has not yet responded to them.