Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry came before U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison as well as a $10,000 fine following the infamous “couchgate” scandal that exposed financial misconduct within the Supreme Court, ultimately leading to the impeachment of all four Supreme Court justices.
This event was the first in the history of this country; no entire Supreme Court had previously been impeached.
Loughry was thrust into the public spotlight after reporter Kennie Bass was approached by Steve Canterbury, a former administrative director with the Supreme Court, after Loughry fired him. Bass compiled a report that covered the extravagant tastes of the justices, including the now infamous $32,000 couch that was stationed in Loughry’s office. The news quickly spread across the country, making national headlines and causing an uproar from tax-paying citizens around the state.
“Today is an important day. It is important for the people of West Virginia, in restoring the confidence of our citizens in the West Virginia Supreme Court, and in reaffirming the rule of law and the administration of justice,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Our system proved that it works. Arguably more important than any other part of the criminal justice system, sentencing is a reflection of our values as a society. The goals of sentencing are inherently contradictory and always involve a balancing of competing goals. These three goals are deterrence, denunciation, and rehabilitation. I want to thank my prosecution team, defense counsel and the jury for their tireless but critical roles in ensuring a just and fair result. I reiterate my amazing respect for the majesty of our system of justice – albeit imperfect it is the finest system known to mankind and the envy of the world. The preservation of liberty is best maintained through the confidence of the people in our system of fair and equal justice.”
Stuart continued, “I said it before and I will say it again, there’s no such thing as a little bit of public corruption. It is a cancer that erodes the public’s confidence in government and undermines the rule of law. Integrity and honesty need not be exceptions but, rather, should be the standard we expect from our public servants. To quote Mr. Loughry, as stated in his book: ‘It is essential that people have the absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality of our system of justice.’ Today, with the sentence of Mr. Loughry, our system of justice took a big step in furthering the people’s confidence.”
“Public corruption is a betrayal of the public’s sacred trust,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones. “There is no level of acceptable corruption. The FBI will work tirelessly to make sure those in power positions uphold the law and are held to the highest standards.”
After an eleven-day trial in October 2018, a federal jury found Loughry guilty of one count of mail fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and two counts of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The mail fraud conviction stemmed from his defrauding the Pound Civil Justice Institute of approximately $400 in the summer of 2014, when he claimed mileage to attend a conference in Baltimore, MD, as if he had driven his own personal vehicle when in fact he drove a Supreme Court vehicle. The seven wire fraud convictions related to Loughry’s using a government fuel card to buy gasoline for travel that was not official business. Two of those wire fraud convictions involved purchases of gasoline by Loughry late at night on a holiday or weekend, not long after he had already filled up the Supreme Court’s vehicle with gasoline upon returning from a trip. The remaining five convictions for wire fraud involved purchases of gasoline with a government fuel card and travel by Loughry in a Supreme Court vehicle to attend book-signing events at The Greenbrier Resort, for the book Loughry authored in 2006 about public corruption in West Virginia.
Loughry’s two convictions for lying to the FBI resulted from false answers he gave during an interview on March 2, 2018, by a Special Agent of the FBI. During that interview, Loughry claimed he never used a state vehicle for personal use and that he did not know that a desk he had in his home was a “Cass Gilbert desk” or even a desk anyone had ever claimed to be a Cass Gilbert desk.
Agents with the FBI and the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations conducted the investigation. AUSAs Philip H. Wright and R. Gregory McVey handled the prosecution.