Judge to Rule Soon on Witness for Ex-Va. Governor

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    An attorney hired by former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to provide expert testimony at his upcoming corruption trial said Thursday that the prosecution's star witness will reap substantial benefits from the government's suspension of evidence-gathering in two unrelated civil cases.

    Peter H. White, who represents defendants in securities and other white-collar cases, acknowledged at a hearing that it's hard to put a precise figure on the value of the delays to Star Scientific Inc. founder Jonnie Williams. But he estimated that the early stages of the civil securities lawsuits against Star would cost the company $3 million to $5 million -- money Star can save for the time being, thus benefiting top shareholder Williams.

    “Those types of expenses can be crippling,” he said.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry suggested during his questioning of White that insurance would cover most of the civil litigation costs, greatly reducing any benefit Star and Williams are receiving from the government's success in persuading judges to put those cases on hold until after the McDonnell trial.

    U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer said after the 75-minute hearing that he will rule quickly on whether to allow White's limited testimony. He previously rejected other aspects of White's proposed testimony and refused to allow McDonnell to call former state Attorney General Mark Earley as an expert witness.

    McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Williams in exchange for promoting dietary supplements made by Star Scientific. Williams is expected to testify under immunity at the couple's trial, which is scheduled to begin July 28.

    The McDonnells arrived separately for the hearing at the federal courthouse and listened intently as the former governor's attorney, John Brownlee, and Dry questioned White about his proposed testimony.

    Spencer questioned White about the methodology he used to reach his conclusions. White said he read relevant court documents and relied on his experience.

    “It's more of a common-sense analysis,” he said.

    Dry said White's testimony would amount to “a sideshow” and should not be allowed.

    McDonnell's lawyers on Thursday also asked Spencer to approve blank subpoenas for 20 witnesses, saying it's important to shield those witnesses from intense news coverage. Spencer previously approved 10 blank subpoenas for defense witnesses.