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Prosecutor Ponders Charges in Missing Wilder Funds

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The Richmond commonwealth's attorney is asking for a second opinion in its investigation into missing campaign funds from Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's successful 1989 campaign for governor.

The case, involving about $172,000 in unaccounted for campaign expenditures, has been sent to a prosecutor outside the Richmond area for review, Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring says.

Herring declines to say whether the investigation is leaning in the direction of possible indictments, but he emphasizes that the review isn't targeting the mayor. Instead, Wilder's son and former campaign treasurer, Larry Wilder, is the sole subject of scrutiny.

"The mayor … never was and isn't a target now," says Herring, whose office initially hoped to have made a decision on the case before the beginning of the year.

"We have completed our internal review, which was very comprehensive — probably more so than we thought it would be at the beginning," Herring says. "Now we are getting a second opinion on our analysis."

Herring wouldn't disclose the jurisdiction reviewing his office's findings. He says that he hasn't been personally involved in the investigation, and that Chris Bullard, a senior prosecutor in the Richmond office, has spearheaded it.

"What I have done is literally Chinese-walled myself in — one, because of my relationship with some of the witnesses," Herring says. "I have known Larry Wilder for years and was very good friends with his sister."

The investigation has come down to a simple question of whether the unaccounted-for expenditures, discovered by the State Board of Elections in 2004, violated state laws when the alleged improprieties occurred, Herring says.

He says it's not a question of whether there was access to the funds, or how they were used, but whether that access was illegal. Herring says he believes Bullard has established how the missing funds were used.

"Was the access to the funds illegal or not?" Herring says, summing up Bullard's investigation.

Herring still declines to give a solid timeline for when his office — or an outside prosecutor — might move on the case. "Whether [Bullard] has concluded he wants to indict or not," he says, "I couldn't tell you." S

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