Obstruction charge added against West Virginia justice

By John Raby - Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal grand jury on Tuesday added an obstruction of justice charge against a suspended West Virginia Supreme Court justice already facing a 22-count indictment.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said in a news release the grand jury issued a new, 23-count indictment against 47-year-old Allen Loughry. It supersedes an earlier indictment.

The new count alleges that between Dec. 4, 2017, and May 24, Loughry “knowingly and corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, and impede” a pending federal grand jury investigation, tried to deflect attention from himself and blamed others for the alleged improper use of Supreme Court funds and property.

It accuses Loughry of “creating a false narrative” about an antique desk and leather couch that he had transferred from the Supreme Court offices to his home, and that he repeated the false narrative to an FBI special agent during a March interview.

The indictment includes previous charges of mail and wire fraud, lying to the agent and witness tampering.

“Obstruction of justice is one of the most serious of offenses and for that conduct to be conducted by a Supreme Court Justice is, frankly, just plain stupefying,” Stuart said.

Loughry faces up to 405 years in prison and a $5.75 million fine if convicted of all charges.

The indictment also accuses Loughry of making personal use of a state vehicle and credit card, including for trips to book signings and to visit family. It says Loughry also sought mileage reimbursements for trips even though he drove a state vehicle and used a government credit card for gas. It also accuses him of trying to influence an employee’s testimony.

A legislative committee is considering whether to recommend impeachment proceedings against Loughry. He was suspended last month because of allegations he repeatedly lied about using his office for personal gain.

Gov. Jim Justice and legislative leaders previously asked Loughry to resign. He has not responded.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum announced his retirement effective July 27. That and Loughry’s suspension leave three active justices: Chief Justice Margaret Workman and justices Robin Davis and Beth Walker. The court is in recess until its fall term starts in early September.

A special election will be held in November to fill the remainder of Ketchum’s term.

By John Raby

Associated Press