Jury selection underway as trial approaches for State Auditor McGuiness

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Jury selection gets underway on Thursday in the trial of State Auditor Kathy McGuiness on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges related to her time in office. 

Charges include intimidation of staff, structuring payments to a consultant in a way that would avoid state review, and keeping her daughter on the payroll, even when she was attending college out of state. The state filed an additional intimidation charge for the period after the indictment was issued.

The trial itself will commence on Tuesday morning.

Click here for earlier posts related to the case.

McGuiness has hired the corporate  law firm of McCarter & English for her defense.

The firm and lead attorney, the late  Michael Kelly, were able to get a jury conviction overturned by the U.S. Court of appeals for former Wilmington Trust executives, including its ex-president.

McGuiness’ attorney Steven Wood has mounted an aggressive defense that has attempted to throw out any and all charges.

The defense was unsuccessful in an effort to have the state pay for their work. Instead, the state offered a type of public defender. McGuiness, who the state claimed was a millionaire, opted to pay for a private offense.

The state has matched the aggressiveness of the defense. Recently admitted that false information was used in working to obtain a search warrant.

However, Superior Court Judge William Carpenter, despite cautioning the state at a couple of points,  has allowed the trial to go forward. Despite a crowded schedule that includes a backlog of murder trials, Carpenter has time.

Carpenter also imposed a gag order over comments made outside the courtroom.

Efforts by legislators to convince McGuiness to take a leave of absence have been futile, with the auditor recently filing for re-election. As a result, those seeking the leave of absence claim the work of the auditor’s office will remain under a shadow.

The trial has also led to constitutional questions regarding the impeachment and removal of statewide office holders. The case is believed to be the first of its kind in state history. 

The case also led to calls for the formation of an Inspector General’s office that would help address the conflict that takes place when the Attorney General’s office both investigates and prosecutes cases involving state officials.

The AG’s office has a dual role as serving as a defense attorney for state agencies while also obligated to investigate criminal and civil allegations.

Before the  indictment, McGuiness, a resident of Rehoboth Beach,  had been viewed  as a rising star in the Democratic party. She brought a business background as a pharmacist and business owner.

A nonstop round of appearances and fund-raising not usually seen in the low-profile office also led to speculation she would run for governor in 2024. She is up for re-election this year.

The trial is expected to get heavy media coverage.

The Delaware court system, steeped in tradition,  forbids cameras in courtrooms, but in a minor concession to technology, will allow, in this case, electronic note-taking from laptop computers and related devices as long as nothing is transmitted.