Executive chef trial could cost taxpayers over $500K

Posted at 2:00 AM, Sep 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-16 02:00:08-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – A legal expert says Virginia taxpayers could be footing the bill for half a million dollars in legal fees for the trial of the former executive chef at the governor's mansion.

Todd Schneider, 52, faces four felony counts of embezzlement. He is accused of taking food and other goods from the Virginia Executive Mansion.

The bill for the state's private legal team defending Virginia officials in the trial slated to start next month has already cost at least $240,000.

That's because four private law firms have been hired to defend state workers, including the governor, over the misconduct accusations leveled by Sneider.

Private lawyers have also been assigned to the Virginia State Police, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, to defend investigators and aid with  Freedom of Information Act requests.

The reason McDonnell needs the lawyers is because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recused himself from prosecuting the chef, as well as state officials like McDonnell.

That's because the chef may call state workers as potential witnesses, which Cuccinelli said he would have to defend.

"This is a probably a fraction of the total that will be spent,” said CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone. "It could easily be over $500,000 total."

Stone also pointed out that lawyers typically do not log the most hours until the week before trial, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 15.

As to why these specific, pricey law firms were chosen, that’s a question the governor’s office and the attorney general have yet to fully answer.

In fact, the governor has been clear that he would have been happy being represented by Cuccinelli's team.

While the governor has put the blame for the expensive lawyers on the attorney general's office, Cuccinelli's office said appointing the pricey legal team of Eckert Seamans and attorney Tony Troy was the  governor's idea.