The defense called its first witness June 28, who told the jury in the state’s case against State Auditor Kathy McGuiness that McGuiness was trying to change the role of the office and educate the public on what the auditor does.
Defense attorney Steve Wood called former Chief Deputy Auditor Amy Gulli to the stand after the state rested its case against McGuiness on charges of felony theft, felony intimidation, official misconduct, conflict of interest and structuring a contract in violation of the state’s procurement law.
Gulli, formerly a reporter and editor who had worked in a press office for the Pennsylvania auditor’s office, said she was first hired as a $50 an hour seasonal employee until McGuiness hired her full time as a deputy auditor. Gulli described friction in the office between auditors and the front office staff made up mostly of administrators. She said a former chief of staff was disorganized and bad with numbers, and said other auditors were disgruntled employees.
Gulli said she called Department of Justice investigator Frank Robinson June 15, 2021, the same day he had called a seasonal employee, Virginia Bateman, a friend of McGuiness’s daughter, to ask her questions.
When Robinson returned Gulli’s phone call, she put him on hold for about a minute, prompting State Prosecutor Mark Denney to ask why it took so long and whether she told anyone else that Robinson was on hold. Gulli told Denney the delay was because she was having trouble closing the door to her office.
Before resting its case, the state had called Robinson to the stand to testify under oath about wording in a search warrant he had signed. Robinson testified that he “got twisted up” about information in the warrant regarding payments made to My Campaign Group, a consulting firm McGuiness hired to provide policy and communications services.
Wood then questioned Robinson about what Wood called incomplete information in the search warrant regarding two employees who were let go because of lack of work in the office. “It was true and correct when it was written,” Robinson said.
On the theft charge against McGuiness, Wood said there is zero evidence that McGuiness’s daughter, Saylar, was giving her mother money through their shared bank account, which Wood described as a starter savings account that parents commonly open for their children.
Wood then made a motion for judgment of acquittal to Superior Court Judge William Carpenter Jr. on all charges filed against McGuiness.
Carpenter said he reserves a decision until the jury has reached a verdict, indicating the intimidation charge is “in play.”
Wood said the state has not yet established when McGuiness knew about the investigation, and has not proven that she knew who the witnesses were or treated any of them with malice. So far, Carpenter said, the time frame of when McGuiness may have known about an investigation could be around early June 2021, after Virginia Bateman told her an investigator had called her.
After Wood continued to press Carpenter to dismiss charges, he told Wood, “I think you should stop.”
“It may be that the jury finds [McGuiness] not guilty on all charges, [then] it becomes a moot point,” Carpenter said.
Wood said he has a few more witnesses to call to the stand in the trial that began June 14. The possibility remains that testimony could wrap up June 29, with closing statements June 30 before the case goes to the jury for a decision.