Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recused his office Wednesday from representing Gov. Bob McDonnell in the state's case against executive mansion chef Todd Schneider.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Ellen Porter appointed former state Attorney General Anthony Troy, a Democrat, to handle special counsel for McDonnell. Both Cuccinelli and McDonnell are Republicans.
Porter said the attorney general's office was stepping away from the case because of a "practical conflict."
Cuccinelli already recused himself as the prosecutor in Schneider's case because the former chief of staff to the First Lady, a witness, is a fundraiser for the Republican's candidate's gubernatorial campaign. This latest move also removes Cuccinelli from providing any counsel to McDonnell and his staff during the trial.
"Due to a practical conflict of interest, the Office of the Attorney General has been recused from matters related to the prosecution of the former chef at the Executive Mansion," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "Due to this conflict it was also necessary for outside counsel, separate from The Office of the Attorney General, to be appointed to work with this office on these related matters moving forward. We appreciate the Office of the Attorney General's quick attention to this issue."
Schneider, the chef, is charged with four counts of felony embezzlement for allegedly stealing from the governor's mansion in a case that is scheduled to go to trial in mid-October. The former celebrity chef claimed in court documents that McDonnell told him to pay himself by taking items from the mansion, and further alleged that the first family created a culture of using the taxpayer-funded mansion as a personal pantry.
McDonnell's involvement in the case has been complicated by an ongoing FBI probe into the governor and First Lady Maureen McDonnell's relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr. The catering bill for the wedding of McDonnell's daughter was paid by Williams around the time that the McDonnell's were helping to promote a Star Scientific supplement. Schneider catered the wedding through his private company.
McDonnell and Cuccinelli also received thousands of dollars worth of gifts from Williams. The attorney general also owned stock in the Henrico-based company and failed to report some of his gifts from Williams on several occasions since 2009.
Schneider claims he came to the FBI and the attorney general as a whistleblower on an improper relationship between McDonnell and Williams, before Cuccinelli brought charges against Schneider.