CHARLESTON – The state Judicial Hearing Board agrees with the Judicial Investigation Commission’s recommendation regarding former state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry.
The board issued its order Feb. 22, just two days after Loughry appeared before the board in a courtroom at the Wayne County Courthouse.
The agreement, which was signed by Loughry, entered that day agreed to his disbarment and for him to never seek public office in West Virginia again.
Also as part of an agreement signed Jan. 31 by Loughry, the state Judicial Disciplinary Counsel recommended censure, a $3,000 fine and payment of $5,871.12 for the cost of the proceedings against Loughry.
The hearing board's order now goes to the state Supreme Court, which can follow the recommendations or hand out its own decision, either less harsh or more severe.
Wayne Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt, who is vice chairman of the Judicial Hearing Board, served as hearing examiner Feb. 20. The parties presented the agreement and exhibits in support of the agreement. Afterward, the full board conducted a telephone conference to consider the evidence and agreement to issue its order.
As part of the agreement, Loughry also did not admit guilt to any of the findings by the state panel. But, the agreement states that Loughry admitted there was enough evidence to prove the allegations of two charges of lying to the public, one charge of using a state computer at his home for personal use, four charges of using a state vehicle for personal travel (including trips to The Greenbrier to sell copies of his book “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay For A Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia”) and one charge of being convicted on 10 federal felony counts in October.
“We dismiss the remaining (24) charges with prejudice,” Judicial Disciplinary Counsel Teresa Tarr told Pratt during the Feb. 20 hearing. “We think it’s a fair agreement and the most severe punishment we can obtain given his resignation in November (from the state Supreme Court).
“I believe the conduct of the respondent (Loughry) engaged in is reprehensible. Our system of justice is grounded in truth. We’re told the truth will set you free. Under oath, we’re told to tell the truth. And, if you tell the truth, it will benefit you in some way.”
Tarr said Loughry expected to be told the truth when he served as a justice.
“I would rather hear the truth even if I don’t like the answer rather than hear the opposite,” Tarr said, quoting an email from Loughry regarding renovations to his state Supreme Court office.”
Loughry spoke briefly during the Feb. 20 hearing.
“I believe it (the agreement) is in the best interest of myself and the judicial branch at this time,” he told Pratt.
John Carr, Loughry’s attorney, reminded Pratt that he and his client “do not admit any of the conduct (in the state ethics charges) rises to the level of criminal conduct and that the standard of proof (for this matter) is clear and convincing evidence.”
“We would encourage the board to accept this agreement,” Carr said.
Loughry and Carr declined further comment as they left the courtroom.
Tarr said the process of bringing charges against Loughry has been one of the most challenging of her career, noting that the number of charges against him is the most she can recall during her time on the job.
“We started this process more than a year ago,” she said. “We spent four months working day and night. I’m glad it’s over. It’s been the longest year of our lives.”
Tarr said Loughry’s federal conviction was enough to warrant action by the state, but she said she felt it was important to pursue the other charges as well.
“I hope the public understands we’re here to protect the judicial system,” she said. “We police and protect our own. The public’s faith will begin to be restored.
Tarr said Loughry’s disbarment means he can reapply for his law license in five years.
Loughry was sentenced Feb. 13 to two years in prison in U.S. District Court in Charleston on 10 federal counts after being found guilty on 11 during his trial in the fall before Judge John Copenhaver.
In the federal case, Loughry also was ordered to pay fines and restitution in the amount of $11,273. He also will serve three years of supervised probation. He is supposed to self-report to prison by April 5.
In October, a federal jury found Loughry guilty of 11 of the 23 charges he faced. He would found guilty of seven counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, two for making false statements to federal agents and one count of witness tampering. Copenhaver later dropped the witness tampering conviction.
The mail fraud count related to Loughry seeking reimbursement for a trip to a conference despite using a state vehicle and a state-issued gasoline purchasing card.
The wire fraud counts were about Loughry using a state vehicle and state-issued gasoline purchasing card for personal travel. Some of those trips were for events where he signed copies of his book.
“Of great importance here is a sentence that promotes respect for the law, and deters others,” Copenhaver said as he sentenced the former justice.
In the Feb. 11 filing, federal prosecutors also said Loughry had an “unbridled arrogance” and a “catch me if you can” attitude, noting that he lied to a federal agent during an interview which he requested.
“Of all the criminal politicians in West Virginia, the group that shatters the confidence of the people the most is a corrupt judiciary. It is essential that people have the absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality of our system of justice,” Loughry wrote in his 2006 book. The quote also is the first sentence of the prosecutors’ Feb. 11 sentencing memorandum.
“And those very words apply to and, indeed, condemn Loughry, because he failed to live up to them, the prosecutors wrote. “He did not act with integrity but was corrupted by an inappropriate sense of power and entitlement, which resulted in his engaging in criminal conduct for seemingly trifling gains.
“That criminal conduct deserves stern punishment – not merely because of the nature and circumstances of the offenses of which the jury convicted him, but also to promote respect for the law, afford adequate deterrence, and provide a fitting punishment that will serve the ends of justice. …
“Loughry likewise held a position of public trust that contributed immeasurably to his committing the offenses. Indeed, his position of public trust was essential to his offenses. As a Justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, there were no employees higher than he was in the organization. He possessed near limitless discretion in carrying out his duties and answered to no single individual. His autonomy and discretion were critical to his ability to commit the offenses in the first place and then to go for years before those crimes were uncovered.”