It is the first of two major investigations, that will have a major impact on the 2013 race for Governor. Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring has concluded that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli did not break the law when he failed to disclose thousands of dollars in gifts from Star- Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
Cuccinelli, a Republican asked the Democrat Herring to independently analyze his conduct after Cuccinelli revealed that he had forgot to report sizable gifts from Williams on two different occasions. Williams has become the main figure at the center of an enormous scandal enveloping Richmond that stems from the Capitol's lax laws when it comes to elected officials receiving gifts.
Governor Bob McDonnell is the main fixture in that controversy, but Cuccinelli has also received plane rides, vacation stays and supplements from Williams. He has also been questioned for a fortuitous short term investment in Star stock.
Herring, in a 9 page report spells out in specifics what aspects of the law he was asked to look into and compared his findings to what he learned about Cuccinelli's conduct. Based on that analysis, the prosecutor plainly states that Cuccinelli is not guilty of anything.
"As of this date, July 18, 2013, our investigation finds no evidence that the Attorney General, in violation of the Act or any other law, received any payments, loans, or negotiable tender of any type from any reportable person or entity, including Johnny Williams and Star Scientific," writes Herring.
Herring also delves into the Cuccinelli stock sale and determined that he had no special knowledge to help lead to an understanding of the right time to sell the stock. Herring also concludes that Cuccinelli in no way shape or form gave Williams any preferential treatment in a pending tax lawsuit that Star-Scientific has before the Commonwealth.
The report confirms specifically the claims Cuccinelli has made from the beginning regarding his connection to Star-Scientific and Williams. He has consistently said that he took gifts from Williams, did not do the appropriate work to keep track of those gifts and when he realized he had forgot something he amended his report.
"This was a mistake on my part and I own that," Cuccinelli said in an interview on the topic back in May. He went on to state emphatically that Williams never received anything in exchange for the gifts he gave the Attorney General. ""He never asked me for anything, the only time anything from Star ever came across the radar from the Attorney General’s office was when they sued over a tax assessment and they were immediately opposed."
Herring continues his review of Governor McDonnell and his connection to Williams. That inquiry runs concurrently with a federal investigation into the matter.
**You can read Herring's entire report here.
Herring is also expected to brief reporters on this topic this afternoon. We will have more tonight on NBC12.
UPDATE: Ken Cuccinelli responded to the report with the following statement:
"I appreciate the work of the Virginia State Police and Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring to provide an independent, impartial review of my financial disclosures. This review vindicates what I have said all along. There was no legal requirement to refer my own filings to a commonwealths attorney to review, but I did it because I wanted to be completely transparent with the public"
Meanwhile Democrats are downplaying the significance of the report. "Ken Cuccinelli avoided prosecution for disguising his conflict of interest with Star Scientific and Jonnie Williams because of Virginia's extraordinarily weak ethics laws. Given his pattern of "forgetting" to disclose stocks and gifts from financial patrons whose lawsuits over unpaid taxes are sitting in his office, it's no wonder that Cuccinelli won't accept Terry McAuliffe's proposal to ban gifts and give our ethics laws real teeth," said Party spokesman Brian Coy.