CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE
House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) released the following statement regarding the indictment of Supreme Justice Allen Loughry.
"I'm saddened and disappointed to read these very serious allegations of corruption by a member of our state's highest court contained in today’s indictment. I am deeply troubled by these allegations and believe my fellow West Virginians are as well.
"Under the legal process in our nation and state, Justice Loughry will be afforded due process as the case against him is prosecuted. While he has been suspended from sitting on the court and is not receiving pay, I would reiterate my belief that it is in our state's best interest for Justice Loughry to resign so we can begin the long process of restoring our citizens' trust in their judicial system.
"Regardless of what course Justice Loughry may choose to take, the Legislature will continue its work to get to the bottom of what has occurred, to evaluate the evidence and assess how best to proceed to ensure that our judges and all public officials are held to the highest legal and ethical standards."
Democrat House and Senate leaders say they are renewing their call to begin impeachment proceedings for Justice Allen Loughry, after he was indicted on 22 federal charges.
“As we stated in our June 8th letter to the Governor, President Carmichael and Speaker Armstead, our citizens deserve to be protected against corruption- and the Legislature must stand strong against Justice Loughry’s abuse of power,” Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso (D-Marion) stated in a press release.
“The announcement today of the federal indictment of Supreme Court Justice Loughry is not surprising,” House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) added. “The Governor and Republican leadership must take immediate action- and I am hoping that perhaps today’s news will prompt them to finally initiate an impeachment proceeding. Continued delay reflects tacit indifference to his behavior.”
The West Virginia Association for Justice President Stephen P. New, issued the following statement on behalf of the association:
“The West Virginia Association for Justice is very disappointed and concerned about the alleged criminal conduct of Justice Loughry. While he is presumed innocent until proven guilty, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to federal agents are serious corruption charges," said Stephen P. New, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.
No individual is above the law. Those in public office, especially our judges, should be held to the highest standards of ethics and professional conduct. West Virginia voters put their confidence in Justice Loughry when they elected him to our state’s highest court. If these allegations are found to be true, it’s not just his criminal conduct that’s troubling. It is his total disrespect and disregard for the people who elected him.
Restoring full public confidence in West Virginia’s highest court and its justices must be a priority. The West Virginia Supreme Court must resume its critical role and serious work with no further distractions. WVAJ believes that Justice Loughry should resign immediately. In addition, federal officers should continue their thorough investigation to ensure that there are no further issues."
The West Virginia AFL-CIO also stated the following, saying a "culture of corruption" has developed upon legislative leaders:
The federal charges issued against Republican state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry today -- and the continued failure of the Republican leadership to take action to remove him from office -- points to an ongoing culture of corruption among those in control of the Legislature, West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said.
“Just like Justice Loughry, these Republican leaders don’t think the rules apply to them, and every day we are learning of another corruption scandal as a result,” Sword said. “In just the past few months, we’ve seen a Republican delegate be forced to resign to avoid jail time and the mishandling of $150 million meant to go to flood victims.
“Hard-working West Virginia taxpayers deserve better.”
When fellow union member and Kanawha County delegate Mike Pushkin called for the Legislature to initiate Loughry’s impeachment during the legislative session, Senate President Mitch Carmichael told reporters it “may be the single dumbest most ridiculous political stunt that I’ve seen in my time at the Legislature.” He stated calling for Loughry’s resignation and impeachment had the feel of “a political vendetta.”
“Mitch Carmichael and the Republican leadership have spent the past four legislative sessions pursuing a political vendetta against working West Virginians,” Sword said. “They have pushed legislation to lower wages and benefits, make workplaces less safe and give tax cuts to wealthy corporations. They called rallying educators ‘union bosses’ while ignoring their pleas for a meaningful pay raise and a permanent fix for skyrocketing PEIA insurance costs.
“As with the teacher pay raise, which the leadership reluctantly passed under intense pressure, it was only after the entire Democratic caucus of the Legislature once again publicly demanded action be taken regarding Loughry that the Republican leadership acknowledged the extent of his corruption and called for his resignation. Yet they continue to protect Loughry by not initiating an impeachment process.”
While Loughry’s behavior, having written a book on corruption in West Virginia government and now facing a 22-count indictment, is extremely offensive, Sword noted that the misuse of state and federal funds that were meant to aid West Virginia flood victims is simply appalling.
“I don’t understand how Senator Ed Gaunch and Delegate Roger Hanshaw, chairs of the Joint Committee on Flooding, could have allowed this to happen,” Sword said. “These flood victims live in their districts, and two years have passed, yet they only started raising concerns in the face of recent intense media scrutiny.
“It’s time for the Republican legislative leaders to own up to this troubling trend and take steps to ensure transparency and accountability, rather than spending their time helping political friends and hurting West Virginia families.”
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen H. Loughry II has been indicted on 22 counts.
U.S. Attorney Michael Stuart from the Southern District of West Virginia announced the federal charges in a news conference Wednesday.
Stuart says, at approximately 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, the FBI arrested Loughry. However, Stuart says they do not expect the justice to be detained pending trial.
He is charged with 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering, and three counts of making false statements to a federal agent.
If convicted, he faces a possible sentence of up to 395 years in prison and up to $5.5 million in fines.
Stuart said "no comment" when asked if any other members of the West Virginia Supreme Court would face charges.
Loughry was previously suspended from the bench without pay after being accused of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. The investigation stems from $363,000 worth of renovations to Loughry's Supreme Court office at the W.Va. State Capitol.