Va. Judge Sets Trial Date in Star Scientific Case

By: AP
By: AP

May 24, 2013

SOUTH HILL, Virginia (AP)— A politically connected nutritional supplement maker's lawsuit against the state is moving forward after being stalled for more than a year.

A judge in Mecklenburg County set a December trial over Star Scientific's dispute of a state tax bill, attorneys appointed to represent the state in the matter told media outlets on Thursday.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recused his office after it became public that he was defending the state even though he owned stock in Star Scientific and had accepted lake house vacations and private plane rides from its chief executive.

Federal authorities also are looking into the relationship between Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams and Gov. Bob McDonnell. Williams paid $15,000 for the catering at McDonnell's daughter's 2011 wedding. That gift and others were revealed by former Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider, who is facing embezzlement charges for allegedly stealing from the mansion kitchen. He has alleged in court documents other wrongdoing by the governor's family.

Star Scientific filed the lawsuit in July 2011, though the company has disputed the $700,000 tax bill in 2002. The company, which is under a federal securities investigation, told investors it would owe the state $1.7 million in taxes and penalties if it loses the case.

There were no court filings or other action in the lawsuit for more than a year. Cuccinelli has said he had no personal involvement with the suit and that it was being handled as a routine matter by staff attorneys in his office.

Former Virginia Attorney General Steve Rosenthal and William Hurd were assigned to the case. They said a judge will hear the matter on Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, a rare Saturday court date that signifies the importance of the case and the desire to get it completed before the end of the year.

A Star Scientific spokeswoman had no comment.

At issue is the proper assessment of tobacco curing barns owned by Star Scientific, which was a tobacco company before turning its attention solely to nutritional supplements this year.

Story copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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