First, let me state for the record I can say definitively that Terry McAuliffe was not accused of lying to federal investigators.
Much has been made of a briefly-reported item by the Associated Press Wednesday night that revealed court documents related to the prosecution and conviction of Rhode Island con-artist Joseph Caramadre that had indicated that McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor, misled a postal inspector investigating the case.
Today, I was able to close the loop in this case. Jim Martin, the spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office- Rhode Island District, confirmed to me that while the T.M. listed on pages 40 and 57 of the document is referring to Terry McAuliffe, the T.M. on pages 68-69 is not Terry McAuliffe.
But even though McAuliffe is not the T.M. on pages 68-69, it is easy to understand how one could assume he was.
Here is why:
The two documents referred to below are as follows:
In addition to T.M. appearing on pages 68-69 in the indictment, there are mentions of a T.M. in several other parts of the document.
At no point in the indictment are the initials T.M. ever attributed to a full name. The first time they appear is on page 40. It reads as follows:
“The application listed the owner of the annuity to be T.M., a client of CARAMADRE and the annuitant to be Donald Durate, a terminally ill patient.”
T.M. appears again on page 57. The initials are listed among a table of Caramadre clients who received death benefit checks. Much like on page 40, T.M. is connected to the terminally-ill victim of the Caramdre scam, Donald Durate. The table indicates that T.M. received a $113,057 check as a death benefit paid on Durate's death.
The third and final time T.M. appears in the indictment is on pages 68-69 where that T.M. is accused of lying to investigators. That T.M. also claimed to tell investigators that he received a $2,000 check for contracting work for Caramadre, when in reality it was to refer a terminally patient to him, something that many argued Wednesday night was highly unlikely for McAuliffe, a multi-millionaire living in Northern Virginia.
The dots started to be connected this week when Caramadre's full client list, which up until now had been sealed, was released. It was then that McAuliffe's role as a client of the businessman was revealed.
McAuliffe is the only T.M. on the list. His is the only name associated with Donald Duarte. It matches the specifics assigned to T.M. exactly in the indictment on pages 40 and 57.
And in fact, McAuliffe is the T.M. on pages 40 and 57. That fact was confirmed to me by Martin.
However, even though he is the T.M. at that stage of the indictment, he is NOT the T.M. where the serious accusations are made in pages 68-69, even though the preparers of the document never differentiate between the two.
So how did that happen? And who is the T.M. on pages 68-69? Martin could not provide specifics beyond confirming it is not McAuliffe and pointing me to the information already available in the public record.
I talked to several attorneys of various political stripes with experience when it comes to prosecutions involving the U.S. Attorney's Office. They all came to the same conclusion: It was a mistake.
T.M. could refer to a different person with those initials. The initials could've been inputted incorrectly. There could be any number of explanations. The U.S. Attorney would not provide specifics. But there is a good chance it is a mistake.
A mistake that is not uncommon. According the local attorneys I talked to, U.S. Attorneys, while among the tops in their field and incredibly professional, aren't perfect. Indictments like these will regularly contain mistakes.
McAuliffe, meanwhile, continues to contend that he was unaware of the specifics of Caramadre's operation.
"Ryan, I was a passive investor. That is all I knew," he told me Thursday night. "I was a passive investor in a life insurance annuity. That is all I knew."
Cuccinelli's team argues that even with limited information, McAuliffe's connection to this situation is still questionable.
"My opponent invested in people dying," Cuccinelli said. "And I don't think the people of Virginia, as they learn about that, are going to accept that in their governor."
McAuliffe's spokesman Josh Schwerin reiterated that the candidate knew nothing of what Caramadre scheme.
"Terry invested $33,000 and received $80,000 back," Schwerin said. "He donated the $47,000 to charity. Terry had never heard of Mr. Duarte until this week."
The question is how much will the average voter learn about this convoluted story? The Cuccinelli campaign released a scathing ad today, complete with stock video of dying patients and McAuliffe's face.
With less than a month to go, this story may have already run its course. But it certainly caused a stir that will go down in Virginia gubernatorial history.