UPDATE: Ex-West Virginia Supreme Court justice pleads guilty

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WDTV/AP/WSAZ) -- UPDATE 8/23/18 1:55PM
A retired West Virginia Supreme Court justice is now a convicted felon.

Menis Ketchum pleaded guilty to a felony count of fraud related to 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.

Ketchum entered the plea Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced Ketchum's agreement to plead guilty soon after the 75-year-old justice retired in July. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Dec. 6.

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.

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8/23/2018 12:29:27 PM (GMT -4:00)

UPDATE 8/23/18 12:15PM
Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum II is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday.

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 8/9/18 5:00PM
A plea hearing has been scheduled for a former West Virginia Supreme Court justice facing a federal felony charge related to the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards.

News outlets cited court documents that say the hearing for Menis Ketchum is set for Aug. 23 in U.S. District Court in Charleston. U.S Attorney Mike Stuart announced last week that Ketchum was being charged and had agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Ketchum abruptly announced in a handwritten letter July 11 that he would step down effective July 27, two years before the end of his 12-year term. The letter gave no reason for his resignation.

A special election will be held to fill the remainder of Ketchum's term.

UPDATE 7/31/18 10:50AM
Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum II is pleading guilty to a federal charge.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced the guilty plea to a felony charge of defrauding the state of West Virginia in a news conference Tuesday.

"Justice Ketchum stepped up and owned his illegal actions," Stuart said. "I believe that we have to start expecting more of the state."

Ketchum, whose resignation and retirement took effect July 27, is accused of using a state-owned vehicle for personal use.

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

Stuart said they do not believe Ketchum obstructed justice or lied to federal agents.

UPDATE 7/11/18 4:40PM
House Minority Whip Mike Caputo (D-Marion) says Justice Menis Ketchum has played an "active role" in corruption within the court and was right to resign. He is calling on indicted Justice Tim Loughry to do the same.

“The shenanigans in our highest court are inexcusable. The people of West Virginia have lost faith in the integrity of our judicial system, and rightfully so. The abuse of power and the misuse of taxpayer dollars in our state’s highest court is sickening—and Justice Ketchum has played an active role in this corruption," Caputo stated. "Justice Ketchum has taken advantage of his position in the Supreme Court, and in doing so he has taken advantage of the West Virginia voters who elected him. I urge Justice Loughry to follow in Justice Ketchum’s footsteps and submit his resignation immediately.”

In late June, Loughry was indicted on 22 federal counts, including 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering, and three counts of making false statements. Loughry has pleaded "not guilty" to all charges.

Multiple lawmakers have urges Loughry to resign among the allegations.

Shortly after Loughry's indictment, the House of Delegates passed a resolution permitting the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the entire court regarding possible malpractice and/or criminal activity.

The Judiciary Committee is in the process of holding meetings to aid their investigation.

UPDATE 7/11/18 2:30PM
State Senate President Mitch Carmichael and members of the Supreme Court of Appeals have responded to the news of Justice Menis Ketchum's resignation.

Carmichael says he respects Justice Menis Ketchum's decision to resign.

In a statement, he said, “We appreciate and respect the decision of Justice Ketchum to step down from the Court. I believe we can begin the process of restoring the faith and trust of our citizens in the judicial branch.”

Members of the Supreme Court of Appeals also spoke out.

“Justice Ketchum has brought a great work ethic and strong intellect to his work on the Court, as well as fairness and compassion for people whose cases we hear. He will be missed both personally and professionally," said Chief Justice Margaret Workman.

“I will miss Justice Ketchum’s wit, insight, and diligence. He worked long hours serving this Court and this state and did so with a
true desire to serve the public. It is unfortunate,” said Justice Robin Davis.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Justice Ketchum, who always took the time to mentor me as a new Justice. He set a great
example with his commitment to fairness and the rule of law. I will miss him,” said Justice Beth Walker.

In his brief resignation/retirement letter to Governor Justice released by the court, Ketchum said, " I have decided to retire and relinquish my office as a Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. My retirement is effective at the close of the business day on Friday, July 27.”

Justice accepted the resignation after he received it Wednesday, and says he has directed this general counsel to begin the process of filling the vacancy.

ORIGINAL STORY 7/11/18 1:23PM
According to the Office of the Governor, Governor Jim Justice has accepted the resignation/retirement of Justice Menis Ketchum.

Ketchum was elected to the court in November 2008. His notice of resignation and retirement comes amid an investigation into the entire court regarding possible malpractice and/or criminal activity.

The Governor's Office says Justice has thanked Ketchum for his service to the court.

Justice says he has directed his general counsel to begin the process of filling the vacancy.

Ketchum's resignation takes effect on July 27.