Former Va. senator whose controversial resignation sparked investigation hires lawyer

Former Virginia state senator Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) has hired a veteran former federal prosecutor to represent him as investigators probe the circumstances of his abrupt departure from the state legislature, the attorney said Friday.

Thomas J. Bondurant Jr., now in private practice in Roanoke with the Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore law firm, said he first talked with Puckett on Thursday about the matter. He declined to say whether Puckett had spoken with federal investigators or had been served with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury.

“From looking at it in a preliminary fashion, I don’t see a crime,” Bondurant said. “We’ll continue to do our investigation and respond to whatever we need to at the appropriate time.”

Puckett’s resignation last week gave Republicans control of the state Senate and coincided with talks with GOP lawmakers, including Del. Terry G. Kilgore (Scott), involving a job for Puckett at the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and a judgeship for his daughter. In addition to his legislative seat, Kilgore is chairman of the tobacco commission. He, too, has hired a former federal prosecutor as an attorney.

A federal grand jury in the Western District of Virginia is investigating the matter, according to two people with direct knowledge, and has issued a subpoena seeking documents and testimony related to Puckett’s resignation.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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