It what will be part of an explosive issue in the 2012 U.S. Senate race from Virginia, a Richmond Circuit Court Judge ruled Thursday that Jens Soering, a German man convicted of killing his girlfriend's parents in a gruesome 1985 murder, can stay in a Virginia prison.
In late 2009, then Governor Tim Kaine issued a transfer of Soering into German custody. Kaine was in the last months of his gubernatorial term and Bob McDonnell had already been elected as Virginia's next governor.
Shortly after McDonnell's inauguration, he and the newly elected Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, went to work to revoke the Kaine transfer of Soering, concerned that he would serve only a small part of his double life sentence in his native country.
Friday, a Richmond Circuit Court Judge ruled that McDonnell had the legal right to revoke that transfer. Back in 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder informed Virginia authorities that they would not challenge the transfer revocation.
Soering's legal options are not exhausted quite yet. He still has the option of appealing this decision to the Virginia Supreme Court. However, with the Circuit Court's clear statement on the issue and the Federal Government's desire to not intervene his options are running out.
That leaves the impact it will have on Tim Kaine. Kaine has repeatedly tried to explain his decision to allow Soering to return to Germany. His main argument has centered around a desire to relieve Virginia taxpayers of the expense of detaining Soering for the rest of his life. It is an argument Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli doesn't buy.
"I don't think Tim Kaine has ever adequately explained what on earth he was thinking," Cuccinelli said.
According to Cuccinelli, Soering would've had the opportunity to be released from prison in Germany in 2 and half years. If things had gone in that direction, Soering could have been in a position to petition for his release right now.
Cuccinelli said that he believes that this issue should be front and center in the race for Senate from Virginia.
"This is a terribly unexplained exercise of the authority that he (Kaine) had at the time," Cuccinelli said.
The Attorney General told me that he believes that the General Assembly should consider legislation that would limit the ability of the Executive Branch to use their broad powers after the final election before their term ends.
Governor McDonnell, who is responsible for revoking the Soering transfer, was gratified by the court's decision.
"Jens Soering committed a heinous and gruesome crime when he killed two innocent Virginians," said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. "The Governor believes he must serve his full sentence in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
The question now is how big this issue plays in November for Kaine. There are reports that behind the scenes republican media experts are preparing a significant ad campaign centered around the attempted Soering transfer. Already the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is working to draw focus to the issue.
“Now that a judge has ruled on this matter, it’s even more important for Tim Kaine to finally step forward and be honest with the citizens of Virginia about his decision to help a convicted double-murderer in the final hours of his Administration," said Brian Walsh a NRSC spokesman.
Cuccinelli told me he isn't sure what documents could even be produced that could explain Kaine's thought process. He also called on Kaine to provide a more thorough explanation.
"There is no reasonable motive," said Cuccinelli. "What could you possibly be trying to accomplish?'
I have a request into the Kaine campaign on the court's decision and a response to Cuccinelli's critisim. I will update you when I have more.