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Ex-chef pleads no contest

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RICHMOND (AP) — The former chef at the Virginia governor’s mansion pleaded no contest Wednesday to reduced charges that he stole food from the first family’s kitchen and was ordered to repay the state $2,300, ending a politically embarrassing case that was headed to trial weeks before the state’s hotly contested governor’s race.

Todd Schneider, 52, had been charged with four felony embezzlement counts but they were reduced to two misdemeanor charges under a plea agreement approved by Richmond Circuit Judge Margaret Spencer. She suspended 6-month jail sentences for each count and ordered him to repay the state for the taxpayer-paid provisions.

The case against Schneider brought to light allegations of misconduct against Gov. Bob McDonnell and entangled Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor. While McDonnell cannot seek a second straight term under state law, the chef’s prosecution and accusations of lavish gift-giving by a political supporter to the Republican governor has tarnished McDonnell’s once-rising political star.

The plea avoids a trial that had been scheduled for Oct. 15, less than three weeks before the state’s Nov. 5 general election.

Outside of court, neither Schneider nor his attorney, Steven Benjamin, would discuss details about the plea negotiations with the prosecutor, Gregory Underwood, Norfolk’s commonwealth attorney. He was assigned to the case when Cuccinelli stepped aside, citing a conflict of interest.


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