Ketchum Must Be Punished

Retired West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum “did the right thing for doing the wrong thing,” U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said this week.

But Ketchum did do the wrong thing. He took taxpayers’ money to which he was not entitled. He filed what amounts to a fraudulent income tax return.

Ketchum was near the top of the law enforcement system in our state. Yet he broke the law himself.

He resigned from the high court, effective July 27, after accusations of wrongdoing were made against him. One was that he misused a state car and credit card. The other was that though he was permitted to use the car to commute to and from work, he failed to report that as a benefit on his tax return.

Stuart, who is U.S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, announced this week Ketchum has accepted a deal under which he will plead guilty to a charge related to misuse of the car and credit card.

Ketchum has said he will correct his income tax return and pay any penalty due. He also has reimbursed the state $1,079 for trips he took in the state car, to a golf resort in Virginia.

As Stuart put it, Ketchum “stepped up and owned his illegal activity.”

He deserves credit for that. Consideration also should be given to the fact that his misdeeds were relatively minor, in comparison to some cases of corruption.

Still, Ketchum cannot be allowed to escape with a slap on the wrist. Meaningful penalties are merited both to punish Ketchum and to make clear that West Virginians have had it with corruption in government.

His greatest crime, after all, was one not listed in the statute books: He broke faith with his fellow West Virginians.

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