Jurors Unmoved by Former Va. Governor's Appeal Arguments | NBC4 Washington
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Jurors Unmoved by Former Va. Governor's Appeal Arguments

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    As former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's public corruption case goes before the U.S. Supreme Court, three of the jurors who convicted him say they remain certain they did the right thing.

    They say they aren't buying McDonnell's core argument: He only extended routine political courtesies to the former vitamin executive who gave him and his family more than $165,000 in gifts and loans, and that his conviction _ if allowed to stand _ would make virtually every public officeholder a potential target of overzealous federal prosecutors.

    "Politics as usual - that's a lousy excuse," juror Daniel R. Hottle said in a telephone interview.

    McDonnell's lawyers and opposing counsel from the Justice Department will make their arguments to the nation's highest court Wednesday. The court, reduced to eight members with the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, is expected to rule by the end of June.

    Juror Kathleen Carmody said she understands McDonnell's premise that he didn't do anything for former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams that he wouldn't do for any other constituent, "but as a juror, based on what was presented to us in those six weeks, I disagree and stand by our decision."

    Tyree Ford said he, too, has no second thoughts. The other nine jurors declined interviews, did not return messages or could not be reached.

    Carmody said the turning point for her came in closing arguments, when prosecutors laid out a detailed time line demonstrating that gifts, loans or leisure outings provided by Williams were often promptly followed by McDonnell doing something on his behalf _ for example, asking an aide to meet with Williams to discuss his efforts to obtain state university research on his company's signature anti-inflammatory product, Anatabloc.

    "That really crystallized everything," Carmody said.

    Hottle said actually seeing much of the swag provided by Williams _ a Rolex watch for McDonnell and designer clothing and accessories for his wife and co-defendant, Maureen _ made a big impression.

    "When you see all that evidence sitting in the room, you just think, 'Oh my God,'" he said.

    Williams also loaned McDonnell $120,000 to keep his money-losing vacation rental properties in Virginia Beach afloat. He wrote a $15,000 check to pay for catering at a McDonnell daughter's wedding and paid for a couple of family getaways and several rounds of golf at an exclusive club for the then-governor and his sons.

    The vitamin pitchman never received the state university research he was seeking. However, he did get meetings with administration officials, a product launch event at the Executive Mansion and appearances by the McDonnells at events promoting Star Scientific's products.

    McDonnell, 61, and his wife were both convicted in September 2014 at a joint trial where Williams testified under immunity as the prosecution's star witness. The former governor, once considered a possible running mate for 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was sentenced to two years in prison. Maureen McDonnell was sentenced to a year and a day.

    The courts have allowed both to remain free, however, while they pursue separate appeals _ an accommodation that doesn't sit well with some of the jurors.

    "It's a crying shame that we had 12 people spend all that time, and somebody's spent all that money, and we still don't have due process," Hottle said.

    Carmody said it's frustrating that the McDonnells have managed to stay out of prison for so long.

    Ford said he doesn't share that feeling.

    "I don't take it personal by any means that he hasn't gone to prison," Ford said. "He's well within his rights."

    He said he hopes McDonnell has been able to spend more time with his five children.

    "He sacrificed a lot of time for the people of Virginia and probably not enough for his family," Ford said.

    He added that he did not like the former governor's trial strategy, which has not been part of the appeal: Trying to show that his marriage was so troubled that he and his wife were barely communicating and could not have conspired in a bribery scheme. Several witnesses portrayed Maureen McDonnell as petulant, suspicious, secretive, manipulative, accusatory and prone to angry outbursts.

    "Personally, I don't think it was in good taste to kind of make her be the fall guy," Ford said.

    A federal appeals court has put Maureen McDonnell's hearing on hold until after the Supreme Court rules in her husband's case.