Judge delays decision in Gov. Mansion case - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

No decision on Chef case; both sides fight over gag order


It is now up to a judge to decide whether to drop the charges against the former Executive Chef at Virginia's Governor's Mansion. Todd Schneider was in court today -- and while a decision won't come until later in the week there was plenty of back and forth by both sides.

One of the main battles was over the court mandated gag order. A gag order prevents anyone associated with this case is from discussing the issue outside of official court business. Monday in court Schneider's lawyer asked for the order to be lifted, because he believes he is the only one complying with the judge's instructions.

As he left the courtroom- you could sense the frustration in the normally media friendly Steve Benjamin's voice.

"And at this time I cannot take any questions thank you very much," he said.

In court Benjamin argued that the Attorney General's office has used the gag order as an excuse to not answer potentially damaging questions about the case.  But when it serves them like in a lengthy response to the Washington Post regarding the case, or in an interview on WRVA they seem to ignore the order.

Benjamin went as far as to say to the judge quote "I'm not asking you to hold the Attorney General in contempt of court",  but then when on to ask that he be able to defend his client in the court of public opinion.

Judge Margaret Spencer denied the request, but said she would monitor the situation.

The Cuccinelli campaign claimed they have carefully observed the restrictions set by the gag order, by only discussing items already in the public domain.

"The campaign responded to a series of questions from the Washington Post," said Cuccinelli advisor Chris LaCivita, "However, we're not going to respond to these Gloria Allred-like allegations which Steve Benjamin routinely makes."

Moments after the hearing ended, former Attorney General Tony Troy who is representing the executive mansion and its staff was careful with what he said.

"I don't want to get into too much detail there is a gag order," said Troy, before then launching into a full defense of Governor McDonnell.  "Their use of the mansion it is consistent with every administration in the past… and the chef is responsible for each and every one of those events."

Meanwhile the gag order stays in place- now under the watchful eye of the judge.

As to the argument that the charges against Todd Schneider were brought unfairly, prosecutor Greg Underwood- who took over when the attorney general was taken off the case- said he has independently review the case and he believes it would be an disservice to justice if it is not brought to trial.

This case was what initially launched the investigations into Governor McDonnell- Star Scientific and his alleged improper use of the mansion's resources.  This weekend- the conservative blog Bearing Drift claimed they learned the Governor would resign his post to avoid being indicted.

The Governor today directly denied those claims.

"Those are some really, really bad rumors so you shouldn't pay attention to them," he said.

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