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West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Goes Out With a Guilty Plea -- His Own

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 27, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When Justice Menis Ketchum abruptly retired from the West Virginia Supreme Court, it left some serious questions.

Why did he quit so suddenly? Who would take his place? What about his colleagues? Where is the state-owned car?

Seriously, the car was at the center of all the questions. Ketchum quit and then pleaded guilty to a felony because he was caught driving the state-owned car on golf trips.

The Company Car

Ketchum's plea is the latest in a scandal that has ensnared the entire state Supreme Court. The debacle started in June when Justice Allen Loughry was charged with multiple crimes for misusing government resources.

As the story unfolded, all the justices were involved in allegedly spending over $3 million of state money on "lavish" renovations of their offices and otherwise crossing the line between business and personal use of government property. The Legislature started impeachment proceedings against Justices Loughry, Robin Davis, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker.

In a plea deal, Ketchum admitted to using the state-owned car and a government gas card to travel from his home to private golf club for several years. The 400-mile trips cost taxpayers about $220 a trip, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Justice Ketchum did the right thing for doing the wrong thing," said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. "There is no such thing as a small felony. There is no such thing as a little bit of public corruption."

The Next Chapter

Davis retired hours after the impeachment announcement, leaving two vacancies to be filled by voters in the November election. Meanwhile, the court has been "in recess."

Ketchum is scheduled for sentencing after the election, and faces up to 20 years in prison. That or 400 miles, whichever comes first.

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