Ken Cuccinelli Ad Spotlights Slain Police-Officer Friend

by Jim Geraghty

Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign is releasing a new ad that focuses upon his response to the shooting death of Fairfax County Police Department officer Michael Garbarino.

Cuccinelli’s campaign stated that the candidate and Garbarino were “longtime friends,” living in the same neighborhood in Fairfax; in 2005, Cuccinelli, then a state senator, did a ride-along in Garabino’s car. Cuccinelli consulted with the officer on legislation that dealt with law enforcement.

In 2006, a mentally ill teenager stole his parents’ foot locker and removed two high-powered rifles, five handguns, and 300 rounds of ammunition; he proceeded to the Fairfax Police’s Sully police station and began firing. He fatally shot Detective Vicky O. Armel, 40, and Garbarino, 53, before being shot dead by other officers.

Cuccinelli handled the civil suits for the families, ultimately winning each family $300,000 in damages:

Their spouses sued [the teenager’s parents] Brian and Margaret Kennedy for negligence and wrongful death, claiming the parents should not have allowed their weapons to be accessible to a son with mental illness and a history of violence. Three days before the shooting, Michael Kennedy had seen a mental health therapist, one of many he had visited in the previous year. He had allegedly committed a carjacking and shot the family dog in recent months.

Brian Kennedy was prosecuted by federal authorities for criminal gun violations related to the case, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to 40 months in prison, which he is serving.

The civil suit was defended by Liberty Mutual Insurance, which provided homeowners insurance for the Kennedys. The policy had a maximum $300,000 of personal liability for “each occurrence” at the home. Liberty Mutual argued that Michael Kennedy’s taking of the guns was a single occurrence and asked the Fairfax Circuit Court to limit the case to one event. Cuccinelli argued that two people were killed and so two events occurred. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Marcus D. Williams ruled in favor of the Armel and Garbarino families in April.

Liberty Mutual at first moved to appeal the judge’s ruling but then withdrew the claim in July and moved toward settlement. Then another hurdle arose in the case.

Fairfax County’s attorneys filed liens on both lawsuits in July, saying the county was entitled to recover medical costs and death benefits it had paid. The county said it had paid Garbarino or his family $287,375 and Armel’s family $284,431. The liens, if enforced, would have taken nearly all the $300,000 available from the Liberty Mutual policy.

Cuccinelli approached the Fairfax Board of Supervisors in August and asked whether the county would consider waiving the lien. “They were pretty accommodating,” Cuccinelli said. “I just had to present the case to them. They were not very reluctant.”

The liens were formally waived in court last month, and Liberty Mutual paid each family at the end of September, court records show.

The ad is undoubtedly an effort to emphasize Cuccinelli’s compassionate side early in what is likely to be a thoroughly negative campaign.