Attorney talks about investigation into AG Cuccinelli - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Attorney talks about investigation into AG Cuccinelli

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

We're hearing for the first time from the man who investigated Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring released his findings Thursday. Herring told NBC12 he was happy with the access he got at the Attorney General's office. He said no one sounded scripted or rehearsed in interviews. Herring said ultimately, he just didn't see any evidence that anyone got anything in return for the gifts to the Attorney General.

"I did not find that it constituted a violation of the law," said Herring.

Cuccinelli, who's also the Republican candidate for Governor, asked Herring to independently analyze his own conduct. This was after the Attorney General revealed he forgot to report trips, overnight stays and $10,000 in stock for the Henrico-based company Star Scientific. The gifts were from the company's CEO Jonnie Williams.

"What we didn't see, and we looked, was any effort on the part of Williams to call in the debt. Or essentially say, look I've hooked you up here, now I need you to do something for me in return," said Herring.

Herring - who's a Democrat - announced the ruling in a 9 page opinion. He says he found "no evidence that the attorney general "received any payments, loans or negotiable tender of any type"

Jonnie Williams is at the center of the scandal at the governor's mansion. The findings echoes what Cuccinelli told our political reporter Ryan Nobles about his relationship with Jonnie Williams in an exclusive interview last May.

"He never asked me for anything and the only time that Star came across the radar in the Attorney General's office was when they sued over a tax assessment and they were immediately opposed," said Cuccinelli.

But state Democrats argue the findings only point out a weak ethics law.

"The most concerning thing is that Virginians just don't know the extent of the relationship between Ken Cuccinelli and Jonnie Williams. And we don't know because Ken Cuccinelli has failed to answer," said Lauren Harmon the Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Herring says he doesn't see the law as vague, but he hopes the General Assembly increases the penalty for violating it.

"I think felony exposure offers a lot more of a dis-incentive to strategically forget or omit than a misdemeanor," said Herring.  

Herring's been investigating Governor Bob McDonnell for 8 months now, on his failure to report thousands of dollars in gifts from the Star Scientific CEO, as well. A federal investigation is also underway.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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