RICHMOND, Va. — A judge is expected to decide Tuesday whether to toss out most of the corruption charges against Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.
U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer is also set to decide whether the former first couple should be tried together or apart.
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. The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty.
The McDonnells’ lawyers reiterated in court Monday what they’ve been arguing in court records for several weeks: prosecutors have wildly misinterpreted federal bribery law to include routine political courtesies, such as setting up meetings between political benefactors and government officials.
“This is not and has never been the law” said Noel Francisco, a lawyer for Bob McDonnell.
Much of the legal arguments in the case center on what constitutes an “official” act under state law. Setting up meetings between Williams and state officials and hosting a reception for Williams at the Executive Mansion do not count as official acts, Francisco argued.
But prosecutor Ryan Faulconer that the McDonnells were “lining their pockets” with cash, gifts and loans from Williams in secret while setting up those meetings and receptions, and in that context they can be considered official acts.
The McDonnells lawyers also reiterated their request for a separate trial, saying Maureen McDonnell’s testimony could exonerate her husband from many of the charges. But 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.
Prosecutors said that the defense has given no specifics as to why Maureen McDonnell’s testimony would be essential to her husband’s defense.
The McDonnells are also charged with lying on bank loan documents.
A jury trial that is expected to last at least five weeks is scheduled to begin in late July.
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