The case against former Executive Chef Todd Schneider may be over, but Democrats are not willing to let it go.
Even though Schneider and prosecutors were able to come to an amicable settlement that convicts the Chef of misdemeanor crimes but keeps him out of jail, Democrats plan to keep up the pressure on Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli whose office was forced out of the case because of a conflict of interest.
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Governor's former chef pleaded no contest Wednesday to two misdemeanors involving food he took from the Governor's Mansion.
Todd Schneider, 52, entered the pleas, but maintains his innocence and does not admit guilt. Under the plea agreement presented in court, Schneider pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor embezzlement and was sentenced to six months on both charges. He will not serve any jail time. Those sentences will be suspended. He also agrees to pay $2,300 in restitution.
"The fact that there is a plea agreement in this case vindicates this office's decision to pursue the prosecution of embezzlement charges against Chef Todd Schneider," said Brian Gottstein in a statement from the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia. "That decision was made only after a thorough review of the evidence and was based on upholding the law."
The move avoids a trial that was scheduled for October. Schneider originally faced 4 felony counts of embezzlement. He was accused of taking taxpayer funded food from the mansion for his private catering business. He served as the chef at the mansion from 2010 until 2012— when State Police launched an investigation into kitchen operations.
In court documents Schneider claimed he was a whistle blower who was retaliated against. The case actually sparked the allegations of misconduct and a federal investigation, which is still underway, of Governor Bob McDonnell. Schneider told investigators the first family took undisclosed gifts from wealthy donor Jonnie Williams. Williams paid $15,000 for the catering at the 2011wedding of McDonnell's daughter. The governor did not disclose the gift because he said Virginia law does not require the reporting of gifts to immediate family members. It was later revealed that Williams gave the first lady, Maureen McDonnell, more gifts. He also gave money to the Governor's real estate company. Those gifts totaled more than $120,000 and have since been repaid.
read and see the rest of Rachel's report on NBC12.com
This case was much more than a legal matter- it's become a political issue as well.
The investigation into Schneider was what initially launched the probe into Star-Scientific. Both the governor and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will benefit because more of those sordid details won't be hashed out in a court battle.
But the damage left behind is still significant.
Schneider soon to be out of the headlines the uncertainty over his case is gone, but the political fallout continues.
Democrats continue to tie Cuccinelli and his role in the case-- from the conflict of interest that forced outside counsel- to his connection to Star- Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
Cuccinelli's opponents claim that his "bad judgment" left taxpayers on the hook for more than $240 thousand dollars in outside legal bills. It is a tab the Attorney General's office said today will keep running even though the chef case is over.
Meanwhile Governor Bob McDonnell is ready to move on- his legal team released a statement that said Schneider's conviction means his "reckless allegations" against McDonnell and his family are now "completely discredited."
Schneider will pay back roughly $23 hundred. Interestingly- McDonnell himself voluntarily paid back $24 hundred earlier this year in bills racked up by his family.
Still the governor's office maintains his prosecution was just- and his conviction appropriate. "Those are serious crimes," said spokesman Tucker Martin. "It is unfortunate these actions occurred and we are pleased that justice has been served."
McDonnell's administration will move on- but the more immediate impact is on that race for governor. A race that remains tight. A Quinnipiac poll out this more shows the race within the margin of error but the Democrat Terry McAuliffe holding a three point lead over Cuccinelli. The libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis takes 7% of the vote in the survey.