MORGANTOWN – Being under federal investigation is the legal equivalent of having a dormant virus; You are never quite sure when or if anything is going to come of it.
Federal investigators are notoriously tight-lipped about ongoing investigations and grand juries are conducted in secret. An individual can be the subject of a grand jury probe and, if nothing comes of it, never know.
The individual being investigated rarely gets any kind of official notice that they are in the clear. However, lawyers for Governor Jim Justice say Justice has gotten just that.
Attorney George Terwilliger announced at a press conference last week that the Justice Department’s investigation into the business dealings of Jim Justice and his family found no wrongdoing.
Terwilliger said he was “informed by career Justice Department prosecutors in the U.S. Justice Department” that the investigation has concluded and found no violations.
Justice and his businesses have been under scrutiny for months. The Office of U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart never commented on the investigation, but as our Brad McElhinny reported, “The investigation became apparent because of the revelations of subpoenas involving state government agencies.”
“The subpoenas generally focused on the intersections between state government and the private business holdings of the Governor’s family,” McElhinny reported. Additionally, Justice said publicly he would cooperate with the investigation.
The announcement lifts a considerable legal and political weight from Justice’s shoulders. “Even if you have done nothing wrong, it’s tough to be involved in a federal investigation,” Terwilliger said. “It’s stressful. It’s expensive. Just the existence of an investigation hurts your reputation.”
It’s worth noting that Justice did not receive a letter of declination, an official document from the Justice Department clearing him of any wrongdoing. Those notifications are rare, but they are occasionally issued.
Justice’s business operations have been a frequent source of embarrassment because of lingering unpaid debts, tax liabilities and penalties for mine safety violations. A particularly damaging story in Forbes last year called Justice a “Deadbeat Billionaire.”
Apparently, the cash flow of Justice’s many businesses has improved because stories about non-payments have dried up.
Justice has a tough Primary Election ahead of him and his opponents will still bring up his well-documented financial issues. However, an indictment that would have made re-election almost impossible, is now off the table.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.