State will not retry former auditor McGuiness

April 12, 2024

Delaware prosecutors have decided not to retry former state auditor Kathy McGuiness on charges of official misconduct after that charge was thrown out by Delaware Supreme Court in February.

McGuiness was convicted in July 2022 of misdemeanor charges of misconduct and conflict of interest. She resigned the office after being sentenced in October 2022 to one year of probation; by that point, she had already been defeated in a Democratic primary by Lydia York, who went on to win the office in the general election. 

McGuiness’ attorney, Steven Wood, said, “Ms. McGuiness is glad to put this matter behind her and is looking toward the future.”

McGuiness was originally charged with five criminal counts accusing her of abusing her office: conflict of interest, official misconduct, structuring, theft and intimidation. After a nearly three-week trial in Delaware Superior Court in Dover, McGuiness was convicted on three counts: conflict of interest, misconduct, and structuring, a charge related to McGuiness allegedly structuring state contracts to be below the threshold for public bidding. The conflict of interest and official misconduct charges were related to hiring her daughter and her daughter’s friend for jobs in the auditor’s office. McGuiness was found not guilty of the two felony charges of theft and intimidation. The structuring charge was later thrown out by the court. 

McGuiness appealed her conviction to Delaware Supreme Court, and in February, the court found that McGuiness received a fair trial and she was guilty of the conflict of interest charge, but the official misconduct charge was arrived at due to legal inefficiencies that prejudiced the jury at McGuiness’ criminal trial in July 2022.

Wood made eight arguments for why McGuiness should either have her convictions overturned or receive a new trial. The first of those arguments was that the state violated McGuiness’ due process rights by failing to produce exculpatory evidence for the defense’s review during the trial. The court rejected this argument, saying the state acted in good faith and McGuiness did not establish which evidence would be exculpatory to her case. The court also rejected arguments that McGuiness was the victim of a selective and vindictive prosecution.

Regarding the misconduct charge, Wood argued the structuring and misconduct charges were intertwined, and the structuring evidence prejudiced the jury into entering a conviction on the misconduct charge. In its opinion, the court said that to convict McGuiness of misconduct, the jury needed to find she intended to obtain a personal benefit in connection with the charged misconduct. Based on the record, the court said the state could not establish a personal benefit if the jury only considered the evidence supporting that particular charge. 


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