Earlier this month, I posted this item about the “wedding gift scandal” that had the local press in a tizzy. It seemed like a settling of old scores, and in particular, as payback for the embezzlement trial of former Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider.
The trial preliminaries are now underway. And it looks like things are going to get ugly:
Lawyers representing Virginia’s former Executive Mansion chef want Gov. Bob McDonnell, his family and employees of the executive residence to provide information regarding any instances during which “state goods and resources” were “consumed, provided to, or taken by” McDonnell family members.
The request came in a motion filed this week by lawyers representing Todd Schneider, who is charged with felony embezzlement.
The motion, part of preparation for Schneider’s trial scheduled this summer, also seeks documentation of any instances in which Schneider was denied payment after providing catering services, or told to take food from the mansion for his personal company in lieu of payment.
The RTD article picks some of the juicier requests for information:
• energy drinks and supplements “taken from the mansion” by McDonnell twin sons Sean and Bobby “for use at their college residences”;
• “flats of eggs” taken from the mansion by daughter Rachel McDonnell;
• pots and pans from the mansion given to daughters Jeanine, Rachel or Cailin McDonnell by the first lady;
• lodging and resources provided to Jeanine McDonnell during her residence at Camp Pendleton, “believed to be for several months in early 2012.” The state owns a gubernatorial beach cottage at Camp Pendleton, a sprawling oceanfront reserve in Virginia Beach that Virginia’s first families have used for decades; and
• liquor taken by Rachel McDonnell from the mansion for a private party at Camp Pendleton.
This ain’t beanbag. As Paul Goldman notes:
Schneider’s lawyers are making it plain: if we can, we are going to put the McDonnell life-style on trial to the extent it helps our client.
Let’s cut to the chase: The ex-chef’s lawyers have, politically speaking, threatened the governor.
It would certainly appear so. But there’s also a political angle to all this. Goldman suggests that Ken Cuccinelli’s office seek a plea deal and end the case now.
Instead, the AG’s office is tossing the case to outside counsel. In a press release, Brian Gottstein, the AG’s spokesman says:
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. 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.
Paul Ebert, the commonwealth’s attorney for Prince William County, has agreed to accept the appointment. The judge in the case will have to approve the appointment.
That’s probably a very smart move, as Schneider’s defense team also wants information…
…regarding the relationship between Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who provided a $15,000 check to pay for food at Cailin McDonnell’s June 2011 wedding at the Executive Mansion. It asks for information concerning any gifts Williams or his companies gave the governor or any member of the McDonnell family.
Recall that The AG caught flack over his Star Scientific stock holding and his office’s actions in a tax dispute with the company. The case has bene handed over to outside counsel.
None of this will end well. For whom we’ll have to wait and see. But what initially appeared like a non-story for the Governor could easily become the only story. Cuccinelli was smart to get out of the way.