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Va. gov: no special favors for company in probe

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm •  Published: April 30, 2013

Asked if he'd allow his daughter to accept the gift again, McDonnell struggled with the reply.

"That's hard to say in retrospect. Obviously there's been a lot of attention to that. It's caused a fair amount of pain for me personally I'm a governor but I'm a dad and I love my daughter very much," he said.

Williams has given McDonnell's political action committee nearly $80,000 and gave his 2009 campaign for governor $28,584, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit group that tracks of money in Virginia politics. McDonnell received personal gifts totaling $7,382 from the company in 2012, according to the group.

Based just outside of Richmond, Star Scientific started as a cigarette company in 1990, focused on ways to remove harmful compounds from tobacco. The company incurred annual losses for most of that time, including a $22.9 million loss last year.

In November, Williams, who has been CEO since 1999, announced he was cutting his salary from $1 million a year to $1 a month until the company becomes profitable. A month later, the company, which has 23 full-time employees, said it would shift its focus to its anti-inflammatory supplement, Anatabloc.

Schneider headed the mansion kitchen operations from 2010, when McDonnell moved in, until last year, when he was dismissed during a state police probe. He was later charged with four counts of taking state property worth $200 or more.

Schneider's motion said he told federal and state investigators that the mansion staff and other state employees had witnessed him being instructed to take state-purchased food as payment for personal services, and that they saw others "openly taking cases of food and other supplies from the governor's mansion."

The motions said the charges against him should be dismissed on the grounds that Cuccinelli had a conflict of interest because he had also accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from Williams and Star Scientific.

Cuccinelli filed a motion last week to recuse his office from prosecuting Schneider. A hearing was scheduled Thursday.

Political and official aides to Cuccinelli dismissed the motion by Schneider's attorney, Steven D. Benjamin, as a further effort to politicize and sensationalize a criminal trial. Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for the Virginia attorney general's office, said the case "will be tried in court and not in the media."

Just before Schneider's indictment in March, defense lawyers said Cuccinelli's office ignored Schneider's information "concerning the use of the mansion by Williams, the promotion of Williams' food supplement by the governor and first lady," according to the motion.

Benjamin said Cuccinelli sold 1,500 shares of Star Scientific stock last summer at a profit of $7,000. He also noted Cuccinelli's free use of Williams' Smith Mountain Lake vacation lodge for a summer 2012 vacation worth $3,000 and another stay there for Thanksgiving in 2010, complete with a catered holiday dinner worth $1,500.

Cuccinelli did not disclose the gifts until last week.