Former Va. Governor, Wife's Request for Separate Trials Denied in Corruption Case

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver is in Richmond as Bob and Maureen McDonnell ask a judge to throw out the charges against them. (Published Monday, May 19, 2014)

    A judge ruled Tuesday that the federal corruption charges against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, will not be dismissed. The McDonnells' request for separate trials was also denied.

    The rulings are the latest in a series of setbacks for the McDonnells' legal team.

    Former Va. Gov., Wife Headed Back to Court

    [DC] Former Va. Gov., Wife Headed Back to Court
    Virginia's former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are headed back to federal court Monday, fighting to have corruption charges dismissed. (Published Sunday, May 18, 2014)

    The McDonnells had sought the dismissal of most of the corruption charges filed against them, as well as separate trials. A court order released Tuesday says that defendants who are indicted together should be tried together, unless a joint trial "would be so unfairly prejudicial that a miscarriage of justice would result."

    The Republican and his wife are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc. In exchange, they would help promote his products, according to prosecutors. Those gifts include shopping sprees for designer clothes and accessories, a Rolex watch, $15,000 in catering expenses for a daughter's wedding, golf outings and a lake-house vacation stay that included use of Williams' Ferrari, according to the indictment.

    Part of the bribery scheme involved opening up the Executive Mansion for a launch party for a Star Scientific product and arranging a meeting between Williams and a state health official, according to prosecutors.

    "The only thing that this indictment claims is a crime is a governor and his wife lining their pockets with $150,000 to help a businessman sell his product while hiding it from the voters of Virginia," Prosecutor Ryan Faulkner said of the motion to dismiss.

    The McDonnells' legal team has argued that those are not ``official'' actions under federal bribery law, and therefore most of the case should be thrown out.

    But Spencer said Tuesday in a brief filing that McDonnells' actions could be considered ``official'' acts, and it's up to a jury to determine if the former first couple's conduct constitutes corruption.

    Defense lawyers had also pressed for separate trials, saying Maureen McDonnell was willing to give testimony exonerating her husband at his trial. But they added that Maureen McDonnell is not willing to testify at a joint trial because it would hamper her defense on a separate obstruction of justice charge filed solely against her.

    Spencer said the defense had only offered vague statements that didn't show a compelling need for separate trials.

    In March, Spencer rejected several motions filed by the defense seeking to limit prosecutors' involvement in a civil case against Williams, requesting immediate disclosure of certain evidence and detailed description of the alleged crimes committed by the McDonnells.

    Last year's highly public investigation and the subsequent indictment crippled the political career of Bob McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party who had even been considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney in 2012.

    If convicted, the McDonnells could face a long stretch in prison. Twelve of the charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, two by up to 30 years. Potential fines range from $250,000 to $1 million.

    The McDonnells are also charged with lying on bank loan documents, and Maureen McDonnell faces a separate obstruction of justice charge. Their trial is set for July and is expected to last several weeks.

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