RICHMOND (WWBT)- Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) was hoping to put at least one part of a controversy to rest. Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for Governor has spent the last several weeks fending off accusations from Democrats about his connection to Star-Scientific and it's CEO Jonnie R. Williams Jr.
Williams' company is currently suing the state over a tax issue. Cuccinelli has received several gifts from Williams and at one time owned stock in the company. After weeks of pressure, Cuccinelli handed the tax case off to outside counsel.
But the Star-Scientific case remains a festering issue because it is connected to another major case in front of the Attorney General's office, the embezzlement accusations directed at former Executive Mansion Chef Todd Schneider.
Schneider is accused of stealing from the Executive Kitchen and his case was supposed to be prosecuted by the Attorney General's office. But the case gets complicated because Schneider was the caterer of Governor McDonnell's daughter's wedding. His bill was paid for by Williams, the Star-Scientific CEO.
Democrats have seized on the issue and have called for an independent investigator to look into both Cuccinelli and McDonnell's connection to Williams. This week, Schneider's attorney Steve Benjamin filed a motion for a long list of items the McDonnell family may have requested from the Executive Kitchen. Sensing that the case was taking a political turn, Cuccinelli asked for the case to be handed off to the Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert.
"When the details of the defense's discovery motion emerged yesterday, it was very evident that defense counsel was looking to reach beyond the embezzlement charges and instead politicize this case," said Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for Cuccinelli. "The attorney general feels it is in the best interest of justice and getting this case resolved without any appearance of impropriety to recuse his office from it."
But before Cuccinelli could divorce himself of whatever ugliness could emerge from this case, Benjamin filed an objection to prevent him from going away quietly. In his motion Benjamin claimed that Cuccinelli claimed there was a conflict of interest, but didn't say exactly what that conflict of interest was.
"The Attorney General, however, has failed to file a motion containing any information concerning the basis of the conflict of interest, including when the conflict developed and the nature of that conflict," the motion reads.
Benjamin also points out that the case has had two pre-trail hearings and at no point did the Attorney General's office indicate that a conflict may exist.
The final decision will now be in the hands of Judge Margaret P. Spencer.
A hearing on the motion is set for May 2nd.
It should be no surprise that the McAuliffe campaign has quickly pounced, once again calling on Cuccinelli to step down as Attorney General.
“Ken Cuccinelli’s own office admitted today that Cuccinelli’s involvement in the Star Scientific scandal is ‘a conflict of interest’ that prevents him from doing his job,” said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin. “Virginia taxpayers should not have to pay the salary of an Attorney General who is called out for conflicts of interest by his own office.”