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Former auditor’s conviction for official misconduct reversed

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(The Center Square) – Conviction for official misconduct by Delaware’s former state auditor has been reversed by the state’s highest court.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, the Supreme Judicial Court said Kathy McGuiness did not get a fair trial in 2022. It upheld the jury’s finding that she was guilty of conflict of interest.

Justices wrote that despite McGuiness’ “inflamed rhetoric” that the convictions were “profoundly unfair and unconstitutional” the “record amply demonstrates that she received a fair trial.”

“The defendant raises a mélange of issues on appeal, including that the state failed to present sufficient evidence of the charged crimes and violated the defendant’s due process rights by suppressing exculpatory evidence,” they wrote in the 86-page ruling. “We reject those arguments because they distort the trial court’s holdings or misapply the law.”

But the court ruled that one of McGuinesses’ convictions on a charge of official misconduct should be reversed “because the legal insufficiency of one of the charges resulted in the spillover of evidence that prejudiced the jury’s consideration of a closely linked charge.”

In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. wrote that the official misconduct conviction should not have been reversed. He said the Superior Court judge didn’t err when he allowed jurors to weigh evidence that McGuiness had illegally structured a consultant’s contract in deciding whether she was guilty of official misconduct.

McGuiness, a Democrat, lost her reelection bid to Lydia York in the September 2022 statewide primary for the auditor’s seat, following months of scrutiny stemming from the public corruption charges.

Last July, a jury found McGuiness guilty of three counts, including illegally structuring a consulting contract at the auditor’s office for a consulting firm that worked on her 2018 campaign. She resigned in October after a judge sentenced her to probation for misdemeanor official misconduct and conflict of interest convictions related to hiring her daughter. She was fined $10,000, according to authorities.

McGuiness has also filed a federal lawsuit against several current and former state officials, accusing them of constitutional violations and slander related to her resignation amid public corruption charges.

The lawsuit alleges that Frank Robinson, a chief investigator in the Delaware Department of Justice and former state prosecutor Mark Denney – who oversaw the public corruption case against her – of violating her constitutional rights and defaming her by making false public statements.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Attorney General Kathy Jenning’s office, which defended the state in the appeal of her convictions, will seek to retry McGuiness on the official misconduct charge.

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