Feds: Clear Cut Bribery Case Against Ex-Va. Gov. McDonnell
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RICHMOND, Va. — The case against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife is straightforward and shouldn’t be dismissed, federal prosecutors said in court filings Thursday.
The government is asking a federal judge to deny requests by the McDonnells’ lawyers to toss out most of the charges filed against the once rising star of the Republican Party. The defense lawyers, as well as five former state attorneys general, have argued that the federal government is trying to criminalize politics by pursing its case against the former governor.
But prosecutors said Thursday that McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, engaged in a “quid pro quo bribe scheme that satisfies any reasonable definition of corruption.”
The McDonnells were charged in January of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for helping promote his products. They have pleaded not guilty and their trial is set for July.
The crux of the case is whether the McDonnells’ actions were illegal or merely unseemly. Much of the legal wrangling has centered on what constitutes the legal definition of “official” acts, and whether the McDonnell abused their office to help Williams or extended him routine courtesies.
According to the 14-count indictment, the McDonnells opened the Executive Mansion for a launch party for a Star Scientific product, arranged for a meeting between Williams and a state health official and talked up the benefits of his company’s dietary supplement Anatabloc.
Prosecutors contend that those actions are “official acts” under federal law, for which the McDonnells received a Rolex watch, designer clothes, golf outings, $15,000 for catering a daughter’s wedding reception and other gifts.
But McDonnells lawyers have argued that the former first couple did not do any special favors for Williams in return for those gifts and prosecutors are using an overly broad definition of official actions. Five former attorneys general, both Republican and Democrat, previously filed a motion supporting this view.
Also on Thursday, prosecutors argued against the McDonnells’ request that they be tried separately.
Defense attorneys have said Maureen McDonnell wants to testify on her husband’s behalf but would not do so if she also is on trial. Prosecutors said there’s no compelling reason to separate the case.
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