McGuiness deserves to be behind bars, prosecutors say

Charles MegginsonGovernment, Headlines

Prosecutors say McGuiness should be behind bars

Mark Denney, director of the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust at the Delaware Department of Justice and lead prosecutor in the state’s case against Auditor Kathy McGuiness. (Charlie Megginson/Delaware LIVE)

If prosecutors have their way, state Auditor Kathy McGuiness will see prison time for her misdemeanor corruption convictions.

McGuiness is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday after being found guilty in July of official misconduct and conflict of interest stemming from her decision to hire her daughter to work in the auditor’s office.

The jury acquitted McGuiness of charges of theft and intimidation, both felonies, after an 11-day trial.

In a sentencing memo to the judge, prosecutors wrote that McGuiness has shown a “complete lack of remorse” for her actions.

An exhibit attached to the sentencing memo shows that McGuiness’s daughter received four paychecks totaling $1,750 following the auditor’s conviction.

“Because this case involves the most serious breach of public trust in recent memory; a complete lack of remorse from the Defendant; and the Defendant continued her criminal conduct — employing and paying her daughter long after the guilty verdict — the State asks for a sentence that will make clear the consequences of her continued, unabashed actions,” wrote prosecutors Mark Denney and Nicole Mozee.

Each conviction carries a possible sentence of up to one year in prison. 

The Department of Justice recommended a prison sentence of 30 days followed by one year at level 2 probation, and restitution to the state in the amount of $23,655 — the amount of money McGuiness’s daughter earned from her “illegitimate employment,” prosecutors say. 

In response to the state’s sentencing recommendation, McGuiness’s attorneys said the prosecutors’ memo “relies upon half-truths and outright distortions of the record.”

By accusing McGuiness of demonstrating a lack of remorse, defense attorney Steve Wood writes, the state “ignores the core of the defendant’s defense in this matter … that her choice to hire her daughter as a casual seasonal employee was not a crime.”

Wood noted that the same argument will be made during McGuiness’s appeal.

“In this unique context, an expression of remorse would be tantamount to a confession of guilt,” he said. “Given the serious issues that the defendant intends to raise in her appeal, as well as the legitimate chance of a new trial, such a confession would be ill-advised.”

A second exhibit attached to the state’s memo shows an email from Deputy Auditor Tori Parker to McGuiness.

In the email, Parker writes that she “is not resigning as Deputy Auditor.”

In an interview with Delaware LIVE News, Parker explained that she believes Gov. John Carney is required to remove McGuiness from office once she is sentenced. 

Operating on the assumption that she would be removed from office, after McGuiness lost the Sept. 13 primary election, McGuiness asked Parker to rehire her as a casual/seasonal employee in the Office of the Auditor, Parker said.

Parker said she refused, causing McGuiness to “resurface some of the behavior that she was accused of prior” to her conviction.

That included asking Parker to resign multiple times and ultimately suggesting she “switch positions” with Alaina Sewell, the office’s chief of staff, who might be more amenable to McGuiness’s demands, Parker said.

Parker said she believes McGuiness suggested being rehired as an employee of the auditor’s office so as to have a bigger role in the transition to the next auditor. 

The request was “inappropriate to make and embarrassing,” Parker said, noting that she filed a formal complaint with the Department of Labor.

“Despite your relentless belief, this is not your agency to burn to the ground on your way out,” Parker wrote to McGuiness in the email. “The people in that office and the people of Delaware deserve significantly better.”

Prosecutors say McGuiness’s request of Parker is just one example of the auditor treating her office as “her personal fiefdom.”

“The defendant’s unprecedented criminal conduct would be minimized by a sentence with no confinement,” prosecutors wrote. “Based on her escalating conduct, some confinement is necessary.”

Wood said the state “seems to have lost sight of the fact that most of the charges brought against the defendant resulted in an acquittal.”

“All that is left of the state’s case is its theory that the defendant violated state law by hiring her daughter as a casual seasonal employee,” Wood wrote. “To suggest that such an offense is worthy of incarceration strains credulity and raises questions of vindictive prosecutorial conduct in sentencing in violation of the Due Process Clause.”

McGuiness will be sentenced in Dover Wednesday at 10 a.m.

State’s sentencing recommendation

McGuiness’s response

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