UPDATE: Ketchum pleads guilty to wire fraud, faces up to 20 years in prison

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ, AP) - UPDATE: 8/23/2018, 12:30 p.m.

Retired West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum pleaded guilty to a felony count of wire fraud on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Ketchum was charged with wire fraud for his personal use of a state vehicle and gas fuel card in a scandal that has led to upcoming impeachment trials for the three remaining justices.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced Ketchum's agreement to plead guilty soon after the 75-year-old justice retired in July.

The felony wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Sentencing is set for Dec. 6, 2018.

The four other justices were impeached last week by the House of Delegates. Justice Robin Davis retired hours later. She and Justices Allen Loughry, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker face trial in the Senate.


UPDATE: 8/23/2018, 11:14 a.m.

Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum II is appearing in federal court on Thursday, where he is expected to plead guilty to wire fraud.

Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with an extensive investigation into the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

A plea hearing was scheduled for Aug. 23 at 11 a.m. in Charleston Federal Court.

Ketchum, whose resignation and retirement took effect July 27, is accused of using a state-owned vehicle for personal use. He also allegedly used tax payer money to pay for the gas.

The former justice faces a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.


UPDATE: 8/21/2018, 7:00 P.M.

The West Virginia Senate has set a date for the first appearance by the state Supreme Court justices who were impeached by the House last week.

The Senate will convene Sept. 11, and the justices or their lawyers are to appear then. A news release from the Senate said the pretrial conference phase is expected to begin then, with trial dates possibly set as well.

Newly sworn Supreme Court Justice Paul T. Farrell will be the presiding officer, and senators will serve as jurors.

The state House voted last week to impeach four justices, one of whom resigned. A fifth justice resigned before the impeachment proceedings began.

The impeachments followed questions about multimillion-dollar renovations to the justices' offices. That expanded into an assortment of accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty.


UPDATE: 7/26/18 1:40 P.M.

Former West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals administrator Steve Canterbury took the stand Thursday in the ongoing impeachment hearings involving one or more justices.

Canterbury's testimony is part of the House Judiciary Committee's ongoing investigation into possible impeachable offenses.

The process started weeks ago after former Chief Justice Allen Loughry was indicted in U.S. District Court. He’s now facing 23 criminal charges.

The scope of these proceedings, though, covers all the Supreme Court justices.

Canterbury's testimony is the longest from any witness during the five days of testimony. He is the initial whistleblower who alerted the public and the media that there were questionable purchases happening at the Supreme Court.



UPDATE: 7/26/2018

Former West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Administrator Steve Canterbury has taken the stand in the ongoing impeachment hearings involving one or more justices.

The testimony is part of the House Judiciary Committee's ongoing investigation into possible impeachable offenses.

Lawmakers began another session of hearing Thursday morning.

You can watch the hearings live at http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Stream/housechamber.cfm


UPDATE: 07/20/18 2:15 P.M.

The committee investigating the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia wants a closer look than ever at the office under review.

Delegates planned to tour the Supreme Court offices Friday morning, but there was a change of plans when delegates found out they could not take photos and videos or bring members of the press along.

After agreeing to allow the delegates to tour the court offices, the Supreme Court issued a news release Friday stating that the court, "will not allow photography or video during the tour, and that if afterward they believe pictures or videos are necessary, Chairman John Shott and the Committee’s photographer will contact Interim Court Administrator Barbara Allen."

This decision would prohibit the media from attending the tour. It also prohibits the delegates from taking their own pictures and videos.

The release states the tour is an on-site inspection and not a "meeting" as defined by state code.

Several delegates argued that this violates the freedom of the press as defined by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The committee members then debated whether or not it violates the Open Governmental Meetings Act to now allow the press and delegates to take their own photos and videos on the tour.

"Those offices do not belong to the justices," Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha, 37) said. "They belong to the people of West Virginia."

Ultimately, the committee approved a motion to delay the Friday tour and request a tour of the facility next week accompanied by three members of the press: one broadcast journalist, one print journalist and one radio journalist. If allowed, the journalists who attend the tour will share content with the other media outlets. The hope is to reschedule that tour for next Friday, July 27.

Before that debate ensued, the House Judiciary Committee began Friday's hearing with more witness testimony and evidence.

That committee was tasked with investigating to determine if lawmakers should move forward with impeachment proceedings against one or more state Supreme Court justices.

First, delegates heard an affidavit from Kimberly Ellis, Director of Administrative Services for the Supreme Court. She testified that Loughry threatened her and caused her to fear for her job. Ellis also felt coerced and intimidated.

The affidavit talks about Justice Allen Loughry II being heavily involved in the extravagant renovations of his office, including hand-sketching designs.

This historic investigation comes after Justice Allen Loughry II was indicted on 23 federal charges. (The original indictment included 22 charges, but a superseding indictment made it 23.) The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, making false statements to a federal agent and obstruction of justice. The West Virginia Judicial Commission also filed 32 formal charges against Loughry in June.

Loughry is accused of making $363,000 worth of renovations to his Supreme Court office at the State Capitol.

Other alleged expensive renovations to his office include a $32,000 couch, $1,700 throw pillows and $7,500 for a custom-made wooden medallion of the State of West Virginia built into the floor with each county cut from a different colored piece of wood and his home county of Tucker is in blue granite.

The charges also accuse Loughry of moving a used, court-owned Cass Gilbert executive desk from his law clerk office to his home in Charleston. We learned in earlier witness testimony that the desk is valued at $42,500 in current condition.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.

Justice Menis E. Ketchum announced on July 11 that he is retiring and resigning from the high court effective July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

Delegates on the House Judiciary Committee are meeting for a series of hearings to go over evidence and interview witnesses. Friday's hearing is the fourth so far.

After hearing the affidavit from the administrative employee, the committee listened to an audio recording of Justice Loughry speaking at a finance meeting earlier this year.

Loughry identifies himself in the recording then leads a discussion on the past judicial budgets and the future fiscal budget.

"We in the judiciary are painfully aware of the state's financial worries in recent years," Loughry said. "The judicial branch of government takes this issue very seriously."

The Supreme Court's budget for FY 2019 is $139,759,670. Loughry said that is 1.1 percent of the state's budget and it is a $2 million reduction from what the state Supreme Court requested the year before.

He addresses the negative press about extravagant renovations to the court offices, calling them, "isolated, but obviously, inappropriate, expenses."

"Each of us will have to explain ourselves to the voters of West Virginia," Loughry said.

Loughry said one action by a court employee can explode because of social media and cloud the focus of the judiciary system.

"I am reminded every single day there is more work to be done to promote financial accountability and responsibility in our government," Loughry said.

In the audio recording, then Chief Justice Loughry gave an account of past renovations at the Capitol.

He said in 2008, the court began renovating offices on the 4th floor of the Capitol. The original contract was for $876,156 and it covered half of the 4th floor. Loughry said renovations were necessary for safety the ability to work.

Loughry said it was widely reported that the court started with a $876,156 contract and it ballooned out of control to a $3 million + contract. He said that is incorrect and that the original contract was for a specific amount of work. The scope of the work changed, he said, and other renovations were "needed and necessary."

"We have a responsibility to take care of this incredible building," Loughry said, explaining that many of the renovations were for extensive electrical, heating, cooling, plumbing and other maintenance work.

He also spoke about the attempts to reduce spending once he became chief justice in January of 2017.

"I was well aware of the fiscal challenges facing West Virginia," Loughry explained, saying he made transparency his primary mission when he was elected.

The judiciary's budget does not only cover the Supreme Court, but 279 judicial officers at the local level as well. In addition to those officers, Loughry said there are many other people, functions, and responsibilities that fall under the budget. Some of those departments include probation, court reporters, law clerks, administrative staff, IT, HR, accounting, payroll, etc.

90 percent of the spending is non-discretionary, he explained, and it's the legislature, not the court, that sets the salaries for the justices and hundreds of other employees.

Loughry said the court, independent of the pressure from the press, was saving money year to year.

"I made it clear that everything must be on the table and nothing was untouchable," he said about reducing spending.

The justice called 2017 a year of "significant financial improvement," reducing spending by millions of dollars and cutting non-essential positions.

In certain areas, Loughry said significant cuts just can't be made. Some expenditures are required by statute. He made the example that if you cut probation officers, that allows for more non-violent offenders to be incarcerated which costs the taxpayers.

After listening to Loughry's testimony, the committee was scheduled to tour the Supreme Court offices, but as mentioned above the tour was delayed due to concerns of the press ban.

The committee adjourned for the day. Lawmakers will meet again Thursday, July 26.


UPDATE: 07/19/18 1:15 P.M.

The unprecedented investigation into the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is resuming Thursday. This is the third of many hearings to determine if lawmakers should move forward with impeachment proceedings against one or more state Supreme Court justices.

The House Judiciary Committee was tasked with interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. We made an illustrative graphic to quickly get you up to speed on the investigation.

Thursday's hearing began with witness testimony from Jess Gundy, Deputy Director of Security for the state Supreme Court. He has worked for the court since 2007. Previously, Gundy worked for West Virginia State Police for 22 years.

Gundy testified that he helped Loughry move a couch from the justice's home to a court warehouse.

Justice Allen Loughry II is accused of making $363,000 worth of renovations to his Supreme Court office at the State Capitol.

Other alleged expensive renovations to his office include a $32,000 couch, $1,700 throw pillows and $7,500 for a custom-made wooden medallion of the State of West Virginia built into the floor with each county cut from a different colored piece of wood and his home county of Tucker is in blue granite.

The charges also accuse Loughry of moving a used, court-owned Cass Gilbert executive desk from his law clerk office to his home in Charleston. We learned in earlier witness testimony that the desk is valued at $42,500 in current condition.

The West Virginia Judicial Commission filed 32 formal charges against Loughry in June. A federal grand jury indicted Loughry on 23 federal charges. (The original indictment included 22 charges, but a superseding indictment made it 23.) The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, making false statements to a federal agent and obstruction of justice.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.

Justice Menis E. Ketchum announced on July 11 that he is retiring and resigning from the high court effective July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

Loughry was chief justice at the time that Gundy says he helped move furniture. In a closed-door meeting with a few people, he said Loughry asked for his help to move a couch out of his home. He said Loughry emphasized that he wasn't doing anything improper because justices are allowed to have a home office.

"If I thought it was illegal, I would not have done it," Gundy said.

The deputy security director said Court Security Messenger Paul Mendez got a van and the two of them followed Loughry to his home. He said Loughry showed them a couch and a desk, but said they could move the desk at a later time.

Gundy described driving to the warehouse, unloading the couch, and discussing when they would move the desk with Arthur Angus, Director of Supreme Court Security, and Justice Loughry. The desk was located in a smaller room in Loughry's home, Gundy testified.

"He wanted to move the desk because he said he wanted it out of his house," Gundy said.

A couple days later, they moved the desk.

First, they navigated different doorways in the home and moved the desk to the garage.

"He [Loughry] was waiting for the neighbor taking the photos to leave," Gundy said.

Gundy said they returned to the Capitol. Later, they went back to Loughry's home to move the desk from the garage to the van. From there, they moved the desk to a room inside the court warehouse.

"He did not want me to tell a lot of people about moving these items," Gundy said. "I think he was relieved that it was all out of his house."

He said they returned to the Capitol. Later, they went back to Loughry's home to move the desk from the garage to the van. From there, they moved the desk to a room inside the court warehouse.

"He did not want me to tell a lot of people about moving these items," Gundy said. "I think he was relieved that it was all out of his house."

Gundy testified that he was not aware of any policy for what furniture or office items justice's can have at home.

After discussing the furniture, they moved on to the use of state-owned vehicles. Gundy's job description also includes driving the justices when requested.

However, Gundy said he did not recall ever driving a justice to an event that was not business-related.

He remembered Loughry using state-owned vehicles, not telling the others where he was going, and returning the car with the gas tank nearly empty. Loughry stated several times that the justices didn't need to know where he was going, Gundy testified.

According to Gundy, former Administrative Director of Courts Steve Canterbury also stated the justices did not have to give information about where they were going or a reason for using the vehicles. Gundy said Canterbury did this under the direction of someone else, but he could not recall if Canterbury said who directed him to do that.

A memo from Justice Davis was a piece of evidence. Davis sent the memo on August 25, 2015 to Gundy and Angus, stating there were no formal policies at the time in place for the justices' use of state-owned vehicles.

"There was no written policy that I am aware of," Gundy said.

They did not keep record of the mileage on state-owned vehicles in between trips, he said. Any mileage records would be on inspection stickers, oil change paperwork and maintenance work documents.

In a previous hearing, the delegates questioned witnesses about Justice Davis traveling with a director of court security for personal safety reasons following threats.

Gundy pointed out that it was not necessary for a threat to be made in order for them to request security.

In regards to how the justices interacted in general, Gundy said, "There was some internal strife." After Loughry was elected to chief justice, he said, "There were a lot of folks who were uncomfortable and they feared for their employment." He said there were some people who were fired. Gundy knows this because security officers have to escort those people out.

One firing in particular Gundy spoke about was of Steve Canterbury.

After more than 11 years on the job, Canterbury was ousted from the Supreme Court in January of 2017 by the court's vote of 3-2. Shortly after, Canterbury told our media partner WV MetroNews that his firing was political, "pure and simple."

Canterbury admitted to MetroNews that his relationship with Loughry started to disintegrate some time before his firing, but he chose not to elaborate on what may have caused the problems.

Loughry later blamed Canterbury for all of the expensive renovations at the Supreme Court.

"Mr. Canterbury is a disgruntled, fired employee," Loughry said in a media interview. "He threatened us as he walked out the door and he's trying to set this up for some lawsuit down the road."

Gundy described walking Canterbury out on the day he was terminated. He said Canterbury made comments about deciding whether or not to go to the press "and tell them everything." Gundy did not remember Canterbury specifying what he meant by that.

Over the decade he has worked for the Supreme Court, Gundy said he has witnessed renovations to an outdated conference room, the chamber's ceiling, and justices' offices.

Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer, 27) asked if Gundy ever heard talks of efforts to spend less. Gundy said no.

Jess Gundy finished testifying around noon. The committee took a recess with plans to start back up again at 1 p.m. Shott said they expect to get through four witnesses (including Gundy) before Thursday's hearing ends.


UPDATE: 7/17/2018, 6:25 P.M.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen H. Loughry II now faces a total of 23 federal charges and a possible sentence of up to 405 years in prison and a fine of $5.75 million.

The federal grand jury that indicted Loughry in June returned a superseding indictment Tuesday. (It replaces the old indictment.)

In addition to the original 22 counts, Loughry is also now charged with obstruction of justice. The original indictment included charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

If convicted, the justice now faces a sentence of up to 405 years in prison, a fine of $5.75 million, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

The investigation stems from $363,000 worth of renovations to Loughry's Supreme Court office at the State Capitol.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart's office announced the 23-count indictment Tuesday.

The indictment states that the obstruction of justice happened between Dec. 4, 2017 and May 24, 2018. "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, according to the superseding indictment," the press release from Stuart's office states.

Loughry allegedly deflected attention away from his own misconduct and blamed others for improperly using court funds and property. The press release states Loughry created a "false narrative" about a Cass Gilbert desk that was allegedly moved to his home. The indictment states Loughry lied about when the desk was moved and who directed it to be moved.

He is also accused of using invoices that were not related to the transfer of the desk, or a leather couch, "to buttress the false narrative he created."

Finally, the new indictment states that Loughry repeated that "false narrative" to an FBI Special Agent in an interview on March 2, 2018.

“Today, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Allen Loughry,” Attorney Stuart said. “The new indictment adds another very serious charge -- obstruction of justice -- which, in addition to the charges included in the original indictment, expose Loughry to a possible sentence of 405 years in prison. It’s very disappointing that a former Chief Justice of the highest court in the State of West Virginia would engage in such egregious conduct. 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.”

At the state level, the West Virginia Judicial Commission filed 32 formal charges against Loughry in early June before the federal indictment. According to an order entered by the Supreme Court, Justice Loughry is suspended without pay and cannot hear any civil or criminal matter or perform any other judicial functions as his disciplinary proceedings play out.


UPDATE: 7/17/2018 4:35 P.M.

Impeachment hearings are set to resume Thursday by the West Virginia House committee investigating the state's supreme court justices.

And an area delegate who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee says he and his fellow members are keeping an open mind in those proceedings.

Republican Delegate Jason Harshbarger's district covers parts of Ritchie and Pleasants counties.

He says members want to go past the "finger pointing" that has gone on in recent months between justices and current and past court office employees, to determine who was responsible for money spent on furniture and other items for court offices.

"We're looking at the four current supreme court justices right now," Del. Harshbarger said Tuesday. "It's something I take very seriously, and I'm paying attention to the questioning along with the other delegates, to see if there actually is grounds for impeachment."

Del. Harshbarger denies a claim by the court, in a letter sent to the committee late last week., that the inquiry is a "fishing expedition", and that he committee is seeking answers to concerns that have been discussed for months.


UPDATE: 7/13/2018 9:20 P.M.

Wrapping up a day of witness testimony and evidence, the committee that's investigating the West Virginia Supreme Court heard from one of the justices himself -- not in person, but in recordings as part of evidence.

Inside the House chambers at the West Virginia State Capitol, the House Judiciary Committee is having hearings to determine if lawmakers should move forward with impeachment proceedings against one or more state Supreme Court justices.

This historic investigation comes after Justice Allen H. Loughry II was indicted on 22 federal charges. The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.
Justice Menis E. Ketchum announced this week that he is retiring and resigning from the high court effective July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.
Friday's hearing was filled with witness testimony and delegate questions, but at the end of it, the committee members got to hear from Loughry in his own words.

First, an audio clip was played of Justice Loughry's testimony to the House Finance Committee in a budget hearing. In the clip, Loughry condemns expensive renovations to Supreme Court offices.

"There is nobody more outraged by these purchases than me," Loughry could be heard saying. "They know I would never approve of such things."

In addition to the federal indictment, the West Virginia Judicial Commission filed 32 formal charges against Loughry in June. They accused the justice of making $363,000 worth of renovations to his Supreme Court office at the State Capitol.

However, in the audio clip, Loughry denies responsibility for the expenses, saying there was clearly oversight and he wants to prevent it from happening in the future.

Following the finance committee clip, the delegates watched a video of a previous media interview with Justice Loughry in which he calls the purchase of a $32,000 couch, among other purchases, shameful.
"I would never defend excessive spending," Loughry said. "I think that it's shameful."

He denies picking out the expensive furniture, instead putting the blame on former Administrative Director of Courts Steve Canterbury. "Mr. Canterbury was in charge of these expenditures. We had no idea the cost of these furnishings."

"Mr. Canterbury is a disgruntled, fired employee," Loughry said. "He threatened us as he walked out the door and he's trying to set this up for some lawsuit down the road."

After more than 11 years on the job, Canterbury was ousted from the Supreme Court in January of 2017 by the court's vote of 3-2. Shortly after, Canterbury told our media partner WV MetroNews that his firing was political, "pure and simple."

Canterbury admitted to MetroNews that his relationship with Loughry started to disintegrate some time before his firing, but he chose not to elaborate on what may have caused the problems.

Loughry said in the interview played on the House floor Friday that he had questioned Canterbury about the costs of the renovations and expressed to the administrative director that he disagreed with them. In the interview he called working with Canterbury "the most unprofessional professional experience" of his life. The justice said Canterbury should be held personally accountable, and he thinks without him, the court will be extremely transparent.

That evidence was shown at the end of day two of many meetings the committee will have.


UPDATE: 7/13/2018, 4:20 P.M.
On Friday afternoon, the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee continued interviewing witnesses to potentially begin impeachment proceedings against one or more state Supreme Court justices.

Friday was day two of many meetings the committee will have. This historic investigation comes after state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted on 22 federal charges. The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.

On Wednesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice received a letter of retirement and resignation from Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum. The justice will retire and resign from the court effective Friday, July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

The first witness called to testify Friday was Scott Harvey, who previously worked for the West Virginia Supreme Court as a database administrator and director of technology.

The charges against Loughry also allege that, in addition to the desktop computer and tablet in Loughry's office, the Justice had two desktop computers, a laptop and a printer installed at his home. Harvey was the director of technology during Loughry's tenure.

All computers, printers, wiring, routers, etc. are paid for by the state, Harvey testified.

Harvey said he made at least four visits to Loughry's home for site survey, installation of computers, and testing.

His fourth visit was to address a computer issue, which Harvey said he later found to be a virus or malware.

Aaron Allred, the West Virginia Legislative Manager and Legislative Auditor, testified Thursday that if those charges are true, it is his opinion that Loughry having those extra computers for personal use is in violation of the Ethics Act.

When a delegate asked Harvey if he believed the computers in shared living spaces at Loughry's home appeared to be for family members' use and not for Loughry's work, Harvey stated, "Evidence later would suggest that." It was brought to Harvey's attention, he said, that there were games being played on at least one of the computers and a large number of photographs.

One of those computers in a shared living space was not connected to a Supreme Court network, Harvey said, making him uncomfortable. Harvey recalled that Loughry essentially said he would prefer the computer in the family area not be connected to the court network.

"I don't recall it being secret, it was just a mention of this computer shouldn't be connected to the court network," Harvey said.

As the director of technology, Harvey says he likely had concerns about that, but just did it because someone higher up told him to.

"Basically fear tells you to do the job or you suffer the consequences," Harvey said.

While Harvey says he never thought about it being illegal, he said it bothered him morally.

Given he made several visits to Loughry's home, Harvey was asked about the furniture in the justice's house. The charges also accuse Loughry of moving a used, court-owned Cass Gilbert executive desk from his law clerk office to his home in Charleston. Allred testified Thursday that the desk was appraised and valued at $42,500. Harvey said he recalled seeing a desk in Loughry's home, but could not say with any certainty it was a Cass Gilbert.


UPDATE: 7/13/2018 10:40 A.M.
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia sent a letter Friday to the House Judiciary Committee investigating possible impeachment of some state Supreme Court justices.

The letter, addressed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, outlines concerns with the scope of the investigation and the proceedings.

Hearings began Thursday in House chambers. The committee is interviewing witnesses to determine if lawmakers should move forward with impeachment proceedings against one or more state Supreme Court justices.

This historic investigation comes after state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted on 22 federal charges. The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

The letter the Supreme Court sent to Delegate Shott Friday says the court has fully cooperated with the committee's investigation as well as the federal investigation that led to charges against Justice Loughry.

"The Court has promptly and fully provided more than 50,000 documents to the United States Attorney and a similar volume of material to the Legislative Auditor, as well as myriad documents to the Legislative Commission on Special Investigations and the Judicial Investigation Commission, and to the media in response to numerous FOIA requests," the letter states. "Additionally, the Court has made its employees available for questioning by state and federal investigators without limitation.

Expressing respect for the legislative proceedings, the court also expressed concerns.

"While the Court acknowledges the Legislature's right to conduct an inquiry where a proper legislative purpose exists, we have significant concerns both as to the scope of these impeachment proceedings and the procedures governing them," the letter states. "The purpose of this letter is to see if we an find common ground that will enable us to assist the Legislature in fulfilling its proper duties while also protecting the judicial branch of government from any improper incursion, interference or interruption in its duties."


UPDATE: 7/132018, 10:00 A.M.
On Friday at the West Virginia State Capitol, lawmakers began the second day of a historic state Supreme Court impeachment investigation.

Inside the House chambers Friday, the House Judiciary Committee is interviewing witnesses to determine if lawmakers should move forward with impeachment proceedings against one or more state Supreme Court justices.

This is day two of many meetings the committee will have.

This historic investigation comes after state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted on 22 federal charges.

The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.

On Wednesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice received a letter of retirement and resignation from Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum.

The justice will retire and resign from the court effective Friday, July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

The first witness called to testify Friday was Scott Harvey who previously worked for the West Virginia Supreme Court as a database administrator and dirrector of technology.

The charges against Loughry also allege that, in addition to the desktop computer and tablet in Loughry's office, the Justice had two desktop computers, a laptop and a printer installed at his home. Harvey was the director of technology during Loughry's tenure.

Harvey said he made at least four visits to Loughry's home for site survey, installation of computers, and testing.

His fourth visit was to address a computer issue, which Harvey said he later found to be a virus or malware.

Aaron Allred, the West Virginia Legislative Manager and Legislative Auditor, testified Thursday that if those charges are true, it is his opinion that Loughry having those extra computers for personal use is in violation of the Ethics Act.

Relying on his memory, Harvey said that he believes the other justices had just one computer in each of their homes.

Harvey testified he has never been to Justice Walker's home. He recalled being at Justice Workman's home at least once, he believes, for a computer connection issue between her home and work computers. Harvey said he has been to Justice Davis' home a few times. The issues at Davis' home were also with the home computer connecting to the computer at the Capitol.

The former technology director said he is not aware of any policy in regards to how many computers the justices may have at their homes.

Given he made several visits to Loughry's home, Harvey was asked about the furniture in the justice's house. The charges also accuse Loughry of moving a used, court-owned Cass Gilbert executive desk from his law clerk office to his home in Charleston. Allred testified Thursday that the desk was appraised and valued at $42,500. Harvey said he recalled seeing a desk in Loughry's home, but could not say with any certainty it was a Cass Gilbert.

This comes after a full day of testimony Thursday that included two witnesses -- both legislative audit employees. Justin Robinson, acting director of the Legislative Post Audit Division Staff, was called as the first witness. He primarily testified about the justices' use of state-owned vehicles, but discussed other audit findings. Aaron Allred, the West Virginia Legislative Manager and Legislative Auditor, was also called as a witness Thursday. Allred primarily testified about the Cass Gilbert desk Loughry is accused of moving to his home, state-owned furniture and property, as well as Supreme Court policies. You can read more about their testimonies in our previous updates below.


UPDATE: 7/12/2018, 11:00 P.M.
In an unprecedented situation for the West Virginia Legislature, the House Judiciary Committee is calling witnesses and discussing evidence Thursday in their impeachment investigation into the state Supreme Court.

After several hours, testimony wrapped up Thursday night. It will resume at 9:00 A.M. Friday.

Two witnesses have testified so far -- both legislative audit employees. Delegates are asking questions about state Supreme Court policies, audit findings, and what these witnesses know about the allegations.

This is the first of many meetings the committee will have to determine if there is a case for impeachable offenses against the justices.

Discussions so far have centered around the justices' use of state-owned vehicles, the expensive furniture West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen H. Loughry II allegedly had in his office and his home, and what records are kept about court property.

This historic investigation comes after Loughry was indicted on 22 federal charges. The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.

On Wednesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice received a letter of retirement and resignation from Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum. The justice will retire and resign from the court effective Friday, July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

Over the past week, committee members have been gathering evidence and identifying possible witnesses. Lawmakers voted to have the committee investigate possible wrongdoing or violations by the state's high court. Depending on the outcome, this could lead to the removal of one or more justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer, 27) started the meeting Thursday in House chambers by explaining the process and the seriousness of the investigation before them.

A few lawmakers brought into question the rules of the proceedings, and Shott moved forward with the hearing, asking those lawmakers that they discuss the rules during breaks to not waste time.

The first topic was the state's Legislative Auditor investigating the spending habits of the Supreme Court. Specifically, the reports revealed information about the use of state vehicles.

Justin Robinson, acting director of the Legislative Post Audit Division Staff, was called as the first witness.

Delegates asked Robinson questions about the state travel policies, the auditing process, and findings in the reports.

Robinson said they poured over vehicle reservation logs and Justice Loughry reserved a state vehicle on 212 instances. On 148 of those days (or about 70 percent of the time) Robinson says Loughry did not list a destination. The report says that Loughry is the only person, that the auditing staff can recall, that failed to provide a destination.

In regards to Loughry, Robinson said the report found excessive personal use of state vehicles. Auditors calculated mileage, rental car receipts, hotel receipts, and other documents.

Robinson read from a letter written by Justice Loughry in response to the audit in which Loughry disputed the findings.

The second report discusses Justice Davis' use of state vehicles. Robinson said Davis made 75 reservations, 55 of which she provided a destination. According to Robinson, Davis' lawyer denied wrongdoing, saying just because a vehicle was reserved, doesn't mean it was actually used. Out of the remaining 20 reservations, Robinson said Davis could definitively say she did not actually use the vehicle on 13 of those days. For the remaining seven reservations, auditors could not determine if the cars were used and Robinson said Davis could not recall.

Robinson said their audit also found Davis traveled with a director of court security for personal safety reasons. When a lawmaker later asked about the cost of paying that security official on all of Davis' trips between 2011 and 2018, Robinson said he did not have information about that salary and it was not included in the audits.

A trip in particular that was discussed for some time in the meeting was a business trip Davis took to Wheeling and Parkersburg. Robinson said Davis traveled for an anti-truancy event.

In regards to Justice Elizabeth D. Walker's use of state vehicles, Robinson said there were no issues found.

In regards to Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman's use of state vehicles, Robinson said there were no issues found.

Delegate Mike Caputo (R-Marion, 50) asked Robinson if the state investigation the justices using personal vehicles for business purposes and asking for reimbursement. Robinson said that is indeed an option for travel, but personal vehicles were not included in the audits released in April.

Delegate Charlotte Lane (R-Kanawha, 35) asked Robinson about who oversees and authorizes the justices' large expenses. While Robinson provided answers, he said those were assumptions and he couldn't speak to that definitively.

The committee took a lunch break and resumed around 1:45 p.m. Thursday.

Chairman Shott began the second half of the day addressing a motion by Delegate Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha, 36) to make three amendments to the rules of the proceedings. Shott denied the motion, saying the rules were sent out to committee members for input on June 29 with no feedback and this is not the time to discuss changes. He asked that the rules be discussed outside of the committee meeting time.

This led to a back and forth between Chairman Shott and Judiciary Committee Minority Chair Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia, 51) about the decision to disregard the motion and move forward with the rules as is. Shott said the House rules read that 10 delegates must support Robinson's motion to amend the rules and disagree with the chairman's decision to override him. While Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha, 37) spoke in support of Robinson and Fleischauer, 10 delegates did not raise their hands.

The meeting moved on to more questioning of witness Justin Robinson, Acting Director of the Legislative Post Audit Division Staff.

Discussion quickly re-focused on the court's use of state-owned vehicles and rental vehicles.

Committee members asked Robinson about specific conferences and events the justices attended and the expenses associated with them. Most of the discussion centered around Justice Loughry.

Robinson testified that Loughry's use of a state vehicle did not appear to be for commuting, but rather, personal use.

The committee discussed one instance in which two members of the West Virginia Supreme Court went to the same out-of-town conference and used two separate rental cars.

Just before 4 p.m., a new witness took the stand: Aaron Allred, the West Virginia Legislative Manager and Legislative Auditor.

After a brief introduction, delegates launched into questions about furniture.

Justice Loughry is accused of making expensive renovations to his office including a $32,000 couch, $1,700 throw pillows and $7,500 for a custom-made wooden medallion of the State of West Virginia built into the floor with each county cut from a different colored piece of wood and his home county of Tucker is in blue granite.

The charges also accuse Loughry of moving a used, court-owned Cass Gilbert executive desk from his law clerk office to his home in Charleston.

With the desk's maker and historical significance, Allred testified that the fair market value of the desk is $42,500 in current condition. Full restoration could increase the value, he said.

According to the charges filed against Loughry, the move clearly violated West Virginia code.

Auditors obtained a receipt that states something was moved from the State Capitol to the street where Loughry lives on June 20, 2013.

The charges the West Virginia Judicial Commission filed against Loughry state that the desk was at his home office from December 2012 to November 2017 until it was moved from his house to the warehouse.

Allred testified that his records do not indicate what was moved. Therefore, he cannot say with certainty that Loughry moved the desk from his office to his home. He also cannot say with certainty that a desk was moved on that June 20 date on the receipt.

However, he said auditors do know from interviews that court employees went to Justice Loughry's houses and moved the desk to the court warehouse.

Allred also testified it is not abnormal for an agency, like the state Supreme Court, to have a designated warehouse.

Delegates asked general counsel if taking a piece of property could be considered larceny, even if it was returned.

Counsel said larceny is an intent crime. Was the person's intent to eventually give it back? Delegate Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha, 36) argued that Loughry did not return the couch until his taking of it was made public, showing his intent. Counsel said that's one assumption that could be made.

To his knowledge, Allred said there is no policy on record that indicates what can be taken to a justice's home.

The charges against Loughry also allege that, in addition to the desktop computer and tablet in Loughry's office, the Justice had two desktop computers, a laptop and a printer installed at his home.

Allred said, if those charges are true, it is his opinion that Loughry having those extra computers for personal use is in violation of the Ethics Act.

The conversation also included alleged renovations to Loughry's office.

Allred said he can provide invoices, but he is not sure if those invoices are broken down by justice. There is also no inventory to keep track of state-owned items at the West Virginia Supreme Court, he testified.

When asked by a lawmaker if he recommends legislative change to create an inventory, he said yes, if the statute doesn't already require it.

"I find it unreasonable the Supreme Court did not even have an inventory of what they own on behalf of the citizens of West Virginia," Allred said. ""In my 25 years here, I'm not sure I've ever found an agency of this size that simply had a complete lack of inventory control."

A delegate asked Allred if it bothers him that there are warehouses in the state potentially filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of state property. Allred simply replied, "Yes."

After nearly two hours of testimony, Allred was dismissed and the committee took a dinner break around 5:30 P.M. Thursday with plans to resume discussions about legislative audits afterwards.

That testimony wrapped up later Thursday night. Proceedings will get underway again at 9 A.M. Friday.


UPDATE: 07/12/18 3:01 P.M.
In an unprecedented situation for the West Virginia Legislature, the House Judiciary Committee began calling witnesses and discussing evidence Thursday in its state Supreme Court impeachment investigation.

The historic investigation comes after West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen H. Loughry II was indicted on 22 federal charges. The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.

On Wednesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice received a letter of retirement and resignation from Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum. He will retire and resign from the court effective July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

Over the past week, committee members have been gathering evidence and identifying possible witnesses. Lawmakers voted to have the committee investigate possible wrongdoing or violations by the state's high court. Depending on the outcome, this could lead to the removal of one or more justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, started the meeting Thursday in House chambers by explaining the process and the seriousness of the investigation before them.

A few lawmakers brought into question the rules of the proceedings, and Shott moved forward with the hearing, asking those lawmakers that they discuss the rules during breaks to not waste time.

The first topic was the state's Legislative Auditor investigating the spending habits of the Supreme Court. Specifically, the reports revealed information about the use of state vehicles.

Justin Robinson, acting director of the Legislative Post Audit Division Staff, was called as the first witness.

Delegates asked Robinson questions about the state travel policies, the auditing process and findings in the reports.

Robinson said officials pored over vehicle-reservation logs and Justice Loughry reserved a state vehicle on 212 instances. On 148 of those days, about 70 percent of the time, Robinson says Loughry did not list a destination. The report says that Loughry is the only person the auditing staff can recall who failed to provide a destination.

In regards to Loughry, Robinson said the report found excessive personal use of state vehicles. Auditors calculated mileage, rental-car receipts, hotel receipts, and other documents.

Robinson read from a letter written by Justice Loughry in response to the audit in which Loughry disputed the findings.

The second report discusses Justice Davis' use of state vehicles.

Robinson said Davis made 75 reservations, 55 of which she provided a destination. According to Robinson, Davis' lawyer denied wrongdoing, saying just because a vehicle was reserved, doesn't mean it was actually used. Of the remaining 20 reservations, Robinson said Davis could definitively say she did not actually use the vehicle on 13 of those days. For the remaining seven reservations, auditors could not determine if the cars were used, and Robinson said Davis could not recall.

Robinson said their audit also found that Davis traveled with a director of court security for personal-safety reasons. When a lawmaker later asked about the cost of paying that security official on all of Davis' trips between 2011 and 2018, Robinson said he did not have information about that salary and it was not included in the audits.

A trip in particular that was discussed for some time in the meeting was a business trip Davis took to Wheeling and Parkersburg. Robinson said Davis traveled for an anti-truancy event.

In regards to Justice Elizabeth D. Walker's use of state vehicles, Robinson said there were no issues found.

In regards to Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman's use of state vehicles, Robinson said there were no issues found.

Delegate Mike Caputo, R-Marion, asked Robinson if the state investigation the justices using personal vehicles for business purposes and asking for reimbursement. Robinson said that is indeed an option for travel, but personal vehicles were not included in the audits released in April.

Delegate Charlotte Lane, R-Kanawha, asked Robinson about who oversees and authorizes the justices' large expenses. While Robinson provided answers, he said those were assumptions and he couldn't speak to that definitively.

The committee took a lunch break and resumed around 1:45 p.m. Thursday.

Chairman Shott began the second half of the day addressing a motion by Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, to make three amendments to the rules of the proceedings. Shott denied the motion, saying the rules were sent out to committee members for input on June 29 with no feedback and this is not the time to discuss changes. He asked that the rules be discussed outside of the committee meeting time.

This led to a back and forth between Chairman Shott and Judiciary Committee Minority Chair Barbara Evans Fleischauer,D-Monongalia, about the decision to disregard the motion and move forward with the rules as is. Shott said the House rules read that 10 delegates must support Robinson's motion to amend the rules and disagree with the chairman's decision to override him. While Delegate Mike Pushkin D-Kanawha, spoke in support of Robinson and Fleischauer, 10 delegates did not raise their hands.

The meeting moved on to more questioning of witness Justin Robinson, Acting Director of the Legislative Post Audit Division Staff.


UPDATE: 07/06/18 4 P.M.
The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee released an update Thursday about an impeachment investigation into the state's Supreme Court.

In June, lawmakers unanimously passed House Resolution 201, which means the House Judiciary Committee will further investigate impeachable offenses against the justices.

This comes after West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen H. Loughry II was indicted on 22 federal charges. The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

The committee had its first meeting June 26 to discuss what impeachment means, as well as the responsibilities and expectations.

Since that first meeting, Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) says members have been working to gather evidence. They are also working to identify and schedule potential witnesses.

Chairman Shott says the committee will meet again Thursday, July 12 through Saturday, July 14. After that, the committee will recess and allow the staff to organize more evidence and witnesses before another three-day schedule of meetings Thursday, July 19 through Saturday, July 21.

Shott also appointed a bipartisan team of managers to oversee the process. This team of managers would present any potential articles of impeachment to the full House of Delegates. If the articles are adopted in the House, the team would also be responsible for the trial in the Senate.

“I am confident that we can proceed in an impartial and non-partisan manner commensurate with the seriousness of the assignment entrusted to us,” Chairman Shott stated in a press release.

Those managers include Chairman Shott, Committee Vice-Chairman Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay), and Delegates Ray Hollen (R-Wirt), Andrew Byrd (D-Kanawha), and Rodney Miller (D-Boone).


UDPATE: 06/26/18 2 P.M.
The West Virginia House of Delegates has passed a resolution aimed at giving the Judiciary Committee the ability to investigate and hold hearings regarding possible misconduct of state Supreme Court justices.

H.R. 201 passed 89-0 with 11 delegates not voting.

The Judiciary Committee met on Tuesday but took no action. Once the investigation is completed, the panel is expected to present its findings to the full House.

No deadlines have been established.

The chair of the Judiciary Committee, John Shott (R-Mercer).
According to Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott of Mercer County, any meetings will be open to the public, unless an executive session is called. In that case, those present will be selected by the committee.

As the session ended, Judiciary Committee member Andrew Robinson of Kanawha County said the committee will be taking the investigation seriously and renewed his call for Justice Allen Loughry to resign.


UPDATE: 06/26/18 1:45 P.M.
West Virginia lawmakers convened a special session Tuesday afternoon to consider possible impeachment proceedings against members of the state Supreme Court.

A resolution introduced in the House of Delegates would allow the Judiciary Committee to investigate and hold hearings, if necessary, regarding malpractice and criminal practices of one or all Supreme Court justices.

House Democrats later introduced an amendment to H.R. 201 that was rejected by a 57-32 vote, with 11 delegates not voting.

The amendment,would have set deadlines for the Judiciary Committee to present its findings to the House and for the House to enact its role in possible impeachment proceedings. That deadline would have been July 23, and the deadline for the Senate to do its part would have been Aug. 13.

The deadline would have allowed for the replacement for any justice to be voted on in the November election. If the positions were not on the November ballot, Governor Jim Justice would appoint a justice or justices for a term of two years until the next election.

Republicans opposed the amendment, stating that the deadlines would not be enough time for the committee to thoroughly conduct its investigation.

"We're dealing with the lives of possibly five justices - their futures," stated Gary Howell of Mineral County.

Harrison County Delegate Tim Miley spoke for the amendment, stating that the investigative work has already been done.

"An investigation was conducted on behalf of this body," he said.

Earlier in the session, House Speaker Tim Armstead gave the session over to be led House Speaker Pro Tempore John Overington, saying that that he did not want conflict stemming from his consideration to run for the court.


UPDATE: 6/25/2018, 5:42 P.M.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is calling a special session to discuss impeaching Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, who was indicted last Wednesday on multiple federal charges, including 22 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.

Gov. Justice issued a proclamation Monday, calling for the West Virginia Legislature to begin a special session Tuesday at noon.

The special session call allows the Legislature to consider matters relating to the removal of one or more Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, and legislation authorizing and appropriating the expenditure of public funds to pay the expenses for the Extraordinary Session.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead sent a letter to the Joint Judiciary Committee last week, saying the purpose of the letter was to initiate a process of impeachment which "may be necessary for any members of members of the Supreme Court of Appeals."


ORIGINAL STORY: 6/22/2018,
The West Virginia Senate President and Speaker of the House have sent a letter regarding impeachment proceedings to the Joint Judiciary Committee.

The letter concerns Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead say that due to the recent legislative audit, investigation and Federal court action related to Loughry's indictment are cause for great concern to the state legislature.

They say the purpose of the letter is to initiate a process of impeachment which 'may be necessary for any members of members of the Supreme Court of Appeals.'

Armstead and Carmichael are asking the committee to review all available evidence.

They say impeachment proceedings can be initiated and concluded within a day or two.

"It is our opinion that the most efficient and time-effective manner of considering impeachment proceedings is for a subcommittee of the Joint Judiciary committee to undertake an immediate review of this matter as part of the open and public interim process. This review would allow the committee to reach a determination of whether it wishes to introduce and consider articles of impeachment against one or more members of the Supreme Court of Appeals as well as to consider and recommend to us any additional action deemed appropriate in relation to the current matters relating to the court."

They are asking for the matter to be considered in just a subcommittee of the Joint Judiciary Committee composed only of House members.

Justice Loughry was indicted Wednesday on 22 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to a federal agent.



 
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