Minutes before the trial of State Auditor Kathy McGuiness on felony theft, intimidation and other charges was set to begin, a New Castle County judge postponed the proceedings until later notice.
McGuiness’s attorney, Steve Wood, questioned in court whether the case should be tried in New Castle County since, he said, there is no proof that the alleged crimes happened in New Castle County.
“They applied a novel theory of jurisdiction,” said Wood while addressing New Castle County Superior Court Judge William Carpenter May 31, the day McGuiness’ jury trial was expected to begin.
McGuiness was indicted in 2021 by a New Castle County grand jury, and Attorney General Kathy Jennings held a press conference in Wilmington announcing the indictment. Months of motions and proceedings have been held in New Castle County Superior Court.
Jurisdiction and venue are an essential fact that has not been established by the prosecution or included in the indictment, Wood said.
Maria Knoll, chief of appeals for the Department of Justice, said the case should be allowed to proceed in New Castle County since the state auditor serves all three counties. She said the indictment notifies McGuiness of the charges against her, and on its face value is sufficient.
Judge Carpenter agreed that the indictment is sufficient to move forward, but he said there is concern over the venue. The issue is whether to break from a tradition of trying someone in a venue within the county they allegedly committed a crime, or if McGuiness’ elected status takes precedence.
Trying McGuiness in New Castle County for a crime she did not commit there would be like trying her in New Castle County if she had committed murder in Sussex County, Carpenter said.
“I’m not going to dismiss, but we should anticipate that the issue of venue remains,” he said, adding a significant decision needs to be made to allow parties to consider their options.
Neither Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney nor Wood would comment following the court proceeding.
Court proceedings were to resume Wednesday, June 1, in New Castle County Superior Court, but Judge Carpenter canceled them with no further rescheduling information.