McDonnell Arraignment to Be Held Friday - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

McDonnell Arraignment to Be Held Friday

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RICHMOND (WRIC) - Former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are scheduled to make their first court appearance on 14 federal corruption charges on Friday. The former governor's lawyers filed a motion Wednesday to postpone the appearance until Jan. 31, which was denied.

The indictment returned Tuesday alleges the McDonnells illegally received thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting his company's products.

According to the 43-page indictment, back in 2009 Jonnie Williams had agreed to buy a dress for Maureen McDonnell for the upcoming inauguration of her husband. That's when one of Bob McDonnell's staff members expressed concerns, saying it would be inappropriate and should not be done.

The document goes on to quote an email Maureen sent to the staffer saying "Bob is screaming about the thousands I'm charging up in credit card debt. We are broke. This inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help...."

Bob McDonnell is accused by prosecutors of using his power as governor to arrange meetings, host events and make appearances in an effort to promote Star Scientific's products and get researchers at UVA and VCU interested.

The indictment goes on to detail how Jonnie Williams was told by Maureen McDonnell that they were "having severe financial difficulties" she asked for a $50,000 loan, saying that she could help star scientific but she would need financial help.

Bob McDonnell allegedly pulled Antabloc, one of Star Scientific's products, out of his pocket during a meeting discussing Virginia state employee health plans, ultimately telling the secretary of administration that the product had health benefits and they should "reach out the Antabloc people and meet with them."

Federal prosecutors claim that the McDonnell's later tried to conceal the loans and gifts they received from Jonnie Williams.

If convicted, there's a long list of items the McDonnell's would have to give back, including over $140,000, several pairs of Louis Vuitton shoes, a silver Rolex watch engraved with "71st Governor of Virginia," two iPhones and lots  of golf accessories and apparel.

8News spoke to a legal expert about the case against the McDonnells and asked how strong the case really is.

While the indictment paints a negative picture of the McDonnells and details thousands in gifts and loans given to the family, legal experts say the biggest challenge for prosecutors will be to show that star scientific actually benefited from the relationship.

"What seems to be difficult here is whether or not they can prove that Star Scientific or Mr. Williams actually received anything," says legal analyst Russ Stone. "It appears they're sort of taking a kitchen sink approach. They've pretty much charged everything they could possibly think of."

But Stone says while the governor may have held events, and spoke about star scientific, it's hard to prove that he did so in return for gifts and loans his family received.

"The defense is going to say governors do this stuff all the time," Stone says. "Elected officials… Democrats…Republicans… there's no question that elected officials do things to encourage business in their state and that's all Bob McDonnell did here."

But Stone says while quid pro quo may be hard to prove, it's the false statements to federal officials the McDonnells are accused of making that may lead to a conviction.

"They just basically have to do with lying to federal investigators, and those are felony charges too and it is sometimes the case that the U.S. Government, you know it's the lie that ends up getting you."



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