Former Justice Loughry’s second motion for new trial dismissed
Witness tampering conviction dropped
CHARLESTON — A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the second of two appeals by former West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeal Justice Allen Loughry for acquittal and a new trial in an 11-count conviction, but did drop one of the charges.
Judge John Copenhaver handed down the memorandum opinion and order Friday. Loughry was seeking an acquittal from Copenhaver on all counts or a completely new trial.
Loughry was convicted Oct. 12, 2018, of 11 counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to investigators. He is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 18.
Of the 11 convictions, Copenhaver did acquit Loughry of witness tampering. Kim Ellis, director of administrative services for the supreme court, testified during Loughry’s trial that he attempted to influence her memory by asking her about a conversation about the costs of his office renovation, a conversation she said never happened.
Jurors were played an audio recording of the meeting that happened Oct. 19, 2017, where Loughry and other court employees invited Ellis to discuss media requests for office renovation costs. During that conversation, Loughry asked Ellis about a conversation where he said he didn’t want his office renovations to cost more than the other justices on the court. She told him she didn’t remember the conversation, and the meeting continued on.
Citing other federal cases, Copenhaver said the indictment “falls short of sustaining a witness tampering conviction.”
In the other cases, there were multiple incidents repeatedly trying to influence the witness’ testimonies, as well as a sense of urgency that Copenhaver said was not present in Loughry’s witness tampering charge.
“The weight of the alleged persuasion here was, on balance, significantly less than that found in these cases,” Copenhaver said. “There was no repeated urging, no constant suggestions, and no direct instruction on how to respond to questioning.”
Copenhaver said, “The consistency with which the defendant engaged in these unlawful acts over a 15-month period establishes a pattern and practice of fraudulent conduct that enabled him to convert to his own use, by false pretenses, assets of the State of West Virginia.”
Loughry still has one more appeal under seal pending. That appeal, while specific details are unknown, involves an allegation of jury misconduct.
Loughry had been suspended without pay from the bench pending the result of the trial. The House of Delegates impeached Loughry and three other supreme court justices in August 2018, but a court order paused the impeachment trials. Loughry resigned Nov. 12 just before the Legislature was slated to start new impeachment proceedings against him.