RICHMOND (WRIC) - Former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife were arraigned in federal court Friday morning. Both are facing fourteen counts including defrauding the citizens of Virginia.
The governor did not say much as he went into the courtroom, joined by family and friends. He was indicted on Tuesday by federal prosecutors, and has since said that while he used poor judgment, he did nothing illegal.
The penalties they both face carry a lot of time. Most of those charges each carry up to a maximum of 20 years in prison. Two counts of making false statements each carry a maximum of 30 years.
The courtroom was filled with reporters, family, friends, the governor's pastor, and fellow lawmakers from the general assembly. Both the governor and his wife pleading not guilty, opting for a jury trial. The judge asked each if they understood the charges against them, and then stressed to the defense and prosecutors that they follow rule 57, which states neither side can talk to the media.
"The courts take that rule very seriously, attorneys have been disciplined for violating it in the past, but it's intended to make sure that the trial is fair for both sides," says legal expert Russ Stone.
Stone says that because this is such a high profile case, there is a danger of a potential jury pool being influenced by media coverage before the trial takes place.
"It's extremely important and the main reason is because at some point when the trial finally starts, there's going to be a number of jurors drawn from the Eastern District of Virginia and under the law, those jurors should not have any information about the case except what they hear in the courtroom."
And then there's well-wishing supporters.
The once rising star of the Republican Party, now humbled by charges of fraud and solicitations of loans and gifts, had just this to offer as they pushed their way down the sidewalk turned gauntlet.
"I'm blessed to have so many family and friends," he says.
Among those friends at the McDonnell's side were the family priest, Father Wayne Ball from St. Patrick's in Church Hill and State Senator John Cosgrove.
"I'm here because Bob McDonnell is a good friend of mine he's been a friend for 15 years," Cosgrove says. "I love the guy to death and you know he needs friends right now."
As the McDonnell's load into their SUV to drive away, one thing is certain. It's a road they'll travel again as a July 28 trial date looms just six short months away.
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