A federal indictment unsealed today reveals that the career of West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry is in ashes and for the following, at least according to the Indictment: use of a Cass Gilbert desk (for about four years), $2764.18 and three lies. I got interested in this because news stories mentioned Cass Gilbert, who is the architect of one of my most favorite buildings in New York, the Woolworth Building, which I could see from my office in the old Legal Aid building, and the West Virginia Supreme Court, which some years ago caused our United States Supreme Court to rule that in some instances campaign contributions and expenditures for a judicial candidate can be so shockingly excessive that they're just too much to let slide, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company.
First, the most interesting part: Cass Gilbert. Gilbert, as the indictment recites, was "a noted and nationally-known architect who designed many prominent buildings in the United States, including the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, the Woolworth Building in New York City, and the State Capitol of West Virginia." Gilbert also designed the Chamber of the West Virginia Supreme Court and selected or approved furnishings for the Capitol including five desks used by the then members of the West Virginia Supreme Court, desks that became known as the "Cass Gilbert" desks; the Cass Gilbert "desks were well known by employees of the Supreme Court and were valued for their craftsmanship and historical significance." No doubt.
Allen Loughry was elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court in 2012. Some few years earlier he authored and published a book titled Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia, which, according to the indictment, recites "a lengthy catalogue of crimes committed by West Virginia public officials, including judges and other elected officials."
It appears that things began unraveling for Justice Loughry based on his use of some of the state fleet vehicles. "On August 25, 2016, one of the Justices of the Supreme Court wrote memoranda to the Administrative Director of the Supreme Court, asking very specific questions about instances when Loughry had reserved a Supreme Court vehicle in 2013-2016," the indictment recites. Loughry, who received the memo, responded with his own missive "questioning vehicle usage by other Justices" and asserting that his own use of state vehicles had been related strictly to court business. It appears that the Justices convened the following month, September 2016, to discuss a formal policy regarding vehicle usage but did not formulate or issue any policy.
The matter lay apparently fallow for about a year until Fall 2017 when "news media in Charleston, West Virginia began investigating and reporting about, extraordinary spending by the Supreme Court." These reports continued apparently for some time with a lot of snooping around, snooping that discovered a missing leather couch. The indictment recites:
43. In the midst of the reporting about questionable spending by the Supreme Court, the news media reported on November 26, 2017, that a leather couch was missing from the Supreme Court's offices in the State Capitol. The next day, on November 27, 2017, defendant arranged for Supreme Court employees to remove a leather couch from his home in Charleston and return it to the Supreme Court.
44. Three days after having the leather couch removed from his home and returned to a Supreme Court warehouse, defendant arranged for have Supreme Court employees return to his home to remove the Cass Gilbert desk that had been in his home for more than four years.
Prior to having the couch and Cass Gilbert desk returned, the indictment alleges that Justice Loughry took some proactive diversionary steps: he met on November 20, 2017, with "a Special Agent of the FBI, a representative of the United States Attorneys office for the Southern District of West Virginia, to report his own concerns about spending by other Justices of the Supreme Court and the former Administrative Director that he believed was unauthorized or otherwise inappropriate." And so, "following the meeting, the FBI in the United States attorneys office initiated a criminal investigation into the possible misuse of state funds by members of the Supreme Court to determine if any federal crimes had been committed and if so, by whom."
There are 22 counts in Loughry's indictment. Three regard fraudulent claims for mileage reimbursement in instances in which Loughry used a state vehicle, 14 regard instances in which Loughry allegedly used a state vehicle for personal business and two regard the payment made ($836) to a moving company by the state to move the Cass Gilbert desk from the Capitol building to Loughry's home. These claims come to a grand total of $2764.18. The remaining charges arise from alleged lies to the FBI and a witness tampering charge.
I can't find a picture of a Cass Gilbert desk but here are some of his buildings:
The above are going clockwise: the Woolworth Building, New York; Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul; Finney Chapel, Oberlin College; Detroit Public Library.