A 12-member jury began deliberation June 30 in the corruption case involving State Auditor Kathy McGuiness in Dover, but it did not reach a verdict.
The jury will resume deliberation Friday, July 1.
McGuiness faces charges of felony theft, felony intimidation, official misconduct, conflict of interest and violation of state procurement law. Judge William C. Carpenter did not include any lesser offenses for the jury – made up of seven men and five women – to consider.
Testimony in the trial wrapped June 29, with attorneys from both sides delivering their closing arguments June 30.
In his closing, Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney said McGuiness was the person responsible for enforcing Delaware’s fiscal rules, but she instead was breaking those rules by doing things like hiring her daughter and her friends, and giving them preferential hours and treatment not granted to other employees. Denney said McGuiness structured payments and contracts with contractor My Campaign Group, whose owner, Christie Gross, had worked on McGuiness’s 2016 run for lieutenant governor and had done consulting work after McGuiness became auditor in 2019, in order to avoid reporting rules. Denney painted a picture of an auditor who ruled her office with an iron fist, who monitored the email communications of certain employees, even after those employees left the auditor’s office.
The prosecution called a slew of former employees of the auditor’s office as part of its presentation. These witnesses described a dysfunctional atmosphere and said they raised concerns over how they thought state funds were being spent. State witnesses also testified that they feared retaliation by McGuiness. The defense argued that to prove intimidation, it had to be clear that McGuiness knew she was under investigation, which she could not have known during the time period in question, which runs from summer 2020 until September 2021. McGuiness was indicted in October 2021.
Denney went through the charges one by one, explaining how McGuiness exercised control over state funds and appropriated them, used the office for personal benefits to friends and family members, and was directly involved in attempts to skirt reporting requirements on state contracts.
“Kathy McGuiness knew just how to play the system, and she did,” Denney said.
He said McGuiness’ actions showed a clear consciousness of guilt.
Denney closed by saying, “What it comes down to is a clear, common-sense abuse of public office. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defendant is guilty.”
In his closing statement, Wood said the state’s prosecution was not based on truth, but instead, a collection of false or misleading statements and half-truths.
“When the state doesn’t do that, you cannot find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt lives in the things you don’t know. The state’s investigation was incomplete, incompetent and biased from the start,” he said.
Wood said investigator Frank Robinson and key witness Thomas Van Horn made repeated false statements to a grand jury. He said the prosecution at trial withheld or concealed evidence and did not call witnesses who would not fit the story the prosecution wanted to tell: that McGuiness was guilty.
The defense called five witnesses in its two-day presentation, all of whom were meant to bolster Wood’s case that state investigators only interviewed witnesses beneficial to its case, misled potential witnesses and provided misleading information on a search warrant for the auditor’s office executed in September 2021.
“You simply can’t trust the state when they say Kathy McGuiness is guilty,” he said. “This was not an investigation designed to ferret out the truth.”