CHARLESTON – Former state Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum has pleaded guilty to one federal count of wire fraud, and suspended Justice Allen Loughry entered another not guilty plea to the two latest additional federal charges against him.
Both men appeared in federal court Aug. 23 in Charleston.
Ketchum, 75, appeared before U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 6.
Loughry, 48, appeared before federal Magistrate Dwane Tinsley. He entered a not guilty plea for the third time since the original 22-count indictment was handed down June 20. A 23rd charge was added in July, and the latest two were added earlier this month.
Loughry remains free on $10,000 bond. His trial still is scheduled to begin Oct. 2 before Copenhaver. Pre-trial motions are due Sept. 4.
Ketchum admitted to using a state-owned vehicle and a state purchasing card on golf trips to Virginia, according to a federal information filed last month. He had resigned and retired from the court last month, weeks before the information related to misuse of a state vehicle was released.
Ketchum, 75, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is free on a $100,000 bond pending sentencing.
An information is used by federal authorities when a defendant agrees to plead guilty and waives his right to an indictment. An information can’t be filed without a defendant's consent. It also usually means the defendant is cooperating with federal prosecutors. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart and federal investigators have been examining the state Supreme Court’s spending practices.
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. That was allowed by his fellow justices.
"Defendant Menis E. Ketchum II knew that he was not authorized to use the Buick Lucerne nor was he authorized to charge his fuel costs to the State of West Virginia because this travel was entirely for personal and recreational reasons," the information stated.
On Aug. 14, the federal grand jury issued another second superseding indictment against Loughry, bring the total federal charges against him to 25. The new charges allege Loughry, 47, used a state vehicle to travel to his native Tucker County to attend a court hearing for his father and used a state credit card to purchase gas for personal travel.
In total, Loughry faces 17 counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, three counts of making false statements to federal agents, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of witness tampering.
He also is named in a 32-count charge from the state Judicial Investigation Commission of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct by misusing state resources and lying about it.
The federal grand jury says Loughry took a state-owned vehicle to Tucker County on Jan. 29, 2014, for a magistrate court hearing in which his father was the defendant. But, it says Loughry claimed the trip was business-related. The indictment also says Loughry used a state credit card to buy $719 in gas for personal use at various locations in Kanawha, Raleigh and Clay counties.
The indictment already had claimed “Loughry knowingly and corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, and impede the due administration of justice — a pending federal grand jury investigation the existence of which Loughry was well aware.”
It also said Loughry allegedly obstructed justice by, among other things, deflecting attention away from his own misconduct and blaming others for improperly using Supreme Court funds and property; creating a false narrative about when a $42,000 antique Cass Gilbert desk was moved to his home and under whose direction; using invoices not related to the transfer of a leather couch and the Cass Gilbert desk to his home in 2013 to buttress the false narrative he created, and repeating the false narrative to a Special Agent of the FBI in an interview on March 2, 2018.
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 for his own use a historically significant people of furniture — a Cass Gilbert desk valued at more than $42,000. He also was indicted for attempting to corruptly obstruct and influence testimonial evidence of a Supreme Court employee in an imminent grand jury investigation. He also is accused of lying to federal investigators during questioning about the allegations.
Those federal charges are in addition to Loughry being named June 6 in a 32-count Statement of Charges by the Judicial Investigation Commission. The JIC claims Loughry violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by making "false statements with the deliberate attempt to deceive, engaged in sophism and gave disinformation with the intent to harm another person.” On June 8, the state Supreme Court suspended Loughry without pay while the charges of judicial misconduct against him are pending. And the state Supreme Court since has put any proceedings regarding the state charges on hold pending the federal matter.
On Aug. 13, the House of Delegates voted to impeach Loughry along with Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis and Justice Beth Walker for failure to hold each other accountable, circumventing the law regarding payment of senior status judges and excessive spending on office renovations.
On Aug. 14, Davis announced her retirement from the court. Last month, Ketchum also retired. And earlier this month, Workman appointed Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell to fill-in for Loughry during his suspension. Gov. Jim Justice will make temporary appointments to fill the seats of Ketchum and Davis until voters elect new justices to finish out their unexpired terms.