Cuccinelli Unworried by Legal Probes of Governor; Ruling Expected This Week on Case against McDonnell Chef

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sherfinski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Neither embezzlement charges against Virginia's former Executive Mansion chef nor ongoing federal and state investigations into Gov. Bob McDonnell's gift disclosures will be enough to weigh down the gubernatorial campaign of Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, political observers say.

At least not yet.

A Virginia judge said Monday she would rule this week on whether to proceed with felony embezzlement charges against Todd Schneider, who served as chef for the governor from 2010 to 2012.

Mr. Schneider is accused of stealing food from the mansion kitchen and has countered by saying he was told to take food as payment for catering events.

Defense lawyers argued the case should be dismissed because Mr. Cuccinelli had a conflict of interest when Mr. Schneider told the attorney general's office last year about a $15,000 payment from businessman Jonnie Williams to cover wedding costs for one of the governor's daughters.

The attorney general's office defends the governor in lawsuits, and Mr. Cuccinelli eventually recused himself from the case. In November, he asked Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael N. Herring to look into Mr. McDonnell's financial disclosures. Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney Gregory D. Underwood, appointed to handle the Schneider case, says that move has quashed any possible conflict.

Mr. McDonnell has said the payment was a gift for his daughter so he was not required to disclose it under Virginia's financial disclosure laws.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said granting motions to dismiss in criminal cases are rare - but this is not a typical case.

I guess what's not clear is what the voters think of all this. We just don't know yet, he said. I don't know yet. I don't think anybody knows.

In Norfolk on Monday, Mr. Cuccinelli told The Associated Press that the case doesn't involve him, so he's not worried about how it might affect his campaign.

A spokesman for the campaign of Mr. Cuccinelli's opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, pointed out that Mr. Cuccinelli himself also forgot to disclose gifts from Mr. …