West Virginia justice's trial has got the jury pondering

Allen Loughry, a West Virginia Supreme Court justice, who was accused for driving state cars and buying gasoline with a state-owned credit card for his own benefit, was long suspended. Most of the 22 counts are for wire fraud. The others include mail fraud, making false statements and witness tampering.

Loughry’s trial began on Wednesday, a federal prosecutor closed his arguments by saying the justice says his trips using the court-issued vehicle were justified, actually “stole from the state.”

During the criminal trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McVey told jurors that Loughry “was elected to be a public servant. He did not do that. Instead, he wanted to become its master. He stole from the state. And when things got hot, he flat-out lied.”

Details of separate trips taken by Allen Loughry during the Thanksgiving and Christmas period along with book signings at The Greenbrier resort were disclosed by McVey. He also pointed out that some gas receipts evidently showed that Loughry filled up the car’s gas tank on separate occasions only a few hours apart at the end of trips. Questions were raised by McVey about the car in which the last fill-up went into.

John Carr, Loughry’s attorney said prosecutors could not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

In August, the state House of Delegates impeached Loughry and three other justices over lavish office renovations and accusations of neglect of duty,corruption and incompetence.

During a denial Wednesday, Philip Wright, Assistant U.S. Attorney brought into notice a book written by Loughry in 2006 about the history of political corruption in the state. “He betrayed his own words. Find him guilty,” said Wright. The book was coined by Loughry while he was a Supreme Court law clerk, it highlighted the importance of public trust in the judicial system.

Earlier this year, the state Judicial Investigation Commission suspended Loughry from his seat on the grounds of keeping secret a December federal subpoena served on the Supreme Court. In February, after the other justices received another subpoena and found out about the first one, he was replaced as chief justice.

Throughout the trial, Loughry was accused of taking home a green leather couch and a $42,000 antique desk from the Supreme Court chambers for personal use, without permission. Later, he returned the items after media started to inquire about them.

As per the indictment, Loughry lied to federal investigators by saying he was unaware about the historical significance and value of the state-owned desk. Loughry testified he thought it was an old desk, but former Justice Brent Benjamin testified last week Loughry knew about the desk’s history and that Loughry said he was “very fortunate to have this.”

Carr told jurors that some witnesses remembered the conversations they had with Loughry incorrectly or are telling lies.

An impeachment trial of Loughry before the state Senate is due next month. Last week, Justice Beth Walker was cleared. Justice Margaret Workman and retired Justice Robin Davis face similar trials this month.

A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, resigned before impeachment proceedings began.

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