On Friday, Kathy McGuiness, the State Auditor of Delaware, became the first serving member of the state’s body to be convicted of criminal charges, albeit she was found not guilty of the two most serious counts against her.
McGuiness was indicted for conflict of interest, theft, structuring, governmental misconduct, and intimidation by Delaware Department of Justice Attorney General Kathy Jennings in October 2021. On July 1, 2022, the jury found the defendant guilty on counts 1, 3, and 4, but not guilty on the two more serious offenses.
As soon as the jury was dismissed, defense attorney Steven Wood announced he will be filing multiple motions and appeals, including a motion for a new trial.
We are deeply disheartened by the jury’s decision today. Wood told reporters outside the courthouse, “We respect the jury’s process, but there’s no question that the jury’s thought process was impacted by many erroneous decisions made by the court along the way.”
Although he originally seemed to agree that the evidence presented by the prosecution was unrelated to the allegations against her, he made it clear that he did not appreciate the rulings made by presiding Judge William C. Carpenter Jr.
Even though the court acknowledged that the state had committed many acts of discovery misconduct, it did not punish the state adequately, as Wood put it. “We have contended, and will argue again, that the court’s definition of the crime of structuring is inconsistent with the way the crime is described in Delaware law. The court kept saying, “Well, we’ll deal with that at the end of the state’s case,” but never got around to it, despite our repeated objections that the evidence in question constituted unfair character evidence that was not admissible. Also, the jury’s decision was almost certainly influenced by the facts presented. Therefore, we will respond to all of the claims in the right files at the proper time.
McGuiness was found guilty of abuse of office, disguising no-bid contracts and payments to a vendor by purposely splitting payments to evade reporting requirements, and giving preferential treatment to her daughter and the best friend of her daughter.
The state had charged her with two felonies, theft of more than $1,500 and witness intimidation, both of which she was acquitted of.
McGuiness chimed in with her own opinion and joined Wood. She insisted that Friday’s ruling would not derail her efforts to become governor of the state.
As of right now, the auditor is seeking re-election. This is a major setback, but I know I can count on my outstanding team to help me succeed. To fix this, I’m looking forward to resuming my collaboration with them.
In response to a question about whether or not she was worried about how Friday’s conviction could affect public view of the Auditor’s Office, McGuiness responded, “I hope more people will realize that Delaware has a State Auditor.”
Prosecutor Mark Denney did not respond after the verdict was delivered, deferring instead to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who issued a statement immediately after the decision was pronounced.
Since the day I entered office, I have maintained my vow that no one is immune to the rule of law or immune to the application of justice. The verdict rendered today of guilty affirmed that. The state auditor whose job it is to defend our state from waste, fraud, and abuse has been found guilty of three crimes by a jury of her peers after a lengthy trial and unfair treatment of whistleblowers. I appreciate the verdict, the hard work of our trial team, and most of all the bravery of the witnesses and whistleblowers who came forward to help bring those responsible to justice. Our office, together with the verdict, sends a loud and obvious message: “Abuse of office is not tolerated in Delaware.”
To find out if politicians in Delaware will proceed to impeach McGuiness, she will have to wait while Wood works on his motions. McGuiness is content to continue in her post as governor.