Instead of preparing to run a Presidential campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, former Republican Governor and rising star Bob McDonnell will be preparing for his corruption trial for the next 5 weeks, along with his wife. A jury was selected on Monday, July 28 to hear the trial of former VA Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen. Both are charged in a conspiracy with 14 counts of receiving gifts and loans in exchange for official government assistance to Star Scientific, the dietary supplement company, of businessman Jonnie Williams, Sr. While Virginia has a history stemming back to Thomas Jefferson, former Governor McDonnell is the first VA governor to face a corruption trial.
The trial, due to the personal gifts given to the couple, will be an embarrassing one for the McDonnells and a salacious one for those following it. With allegations that Maureen McDonnell told people that they were broke, the defense intends to introduce the testimony of an accountant to show that the former governor was not in dire financial straits.
The gifts range from golf outings, catering for their daughter’s wedding, 2 loans, expensive shopping sprees to New York for Mrs. McDonnell, a Rolex watch and an assortment of other gifts, including as specifically outlined in the indictment, as follow:
- $50,000 loan, without loan papers, used to pay of the McDonnell’s’ credit card debt
- $20,000 additional loan
- $15,000 payment to a caterer for the McDonell’s daughter’s wedding
- Round trip tickets for the McDonnell’s daughters to attend an out of town bachelorette party
- A lavish shopping spree in New York for Mrs. McDonnell to buy couture designer clothing and accessories for the Governor’s inauguration
- A Rolex watch, specifically requested by Mrs. McDonnell to be engraved for her husband, after seeing one on Williams’ arm
- Golf outings costing thousands of dollars
- Use of private jets
- Shares of stock
The prosecution contends that in exchange for the above gifts, the former Governor allowed Star Scientific to produce the launch of its business and product at the VA governor’s mansion and potentially use Virginia employees in clinical trials of the dietary supplement, thereby defrauding Virginia taxpayers. From looking at the gifts, it looks as if the defense has some explaining to do. But the government bears the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and will need to prove that the gifts were in exchange for official government assistance to Williams’ business.
And the defense intends to portray Maureen McDonnell as an overzealous wife and as the “fall girl”. McDonnell contends that he did not do anything official in exchange for the gifts given to him. One has to wonder if that is true why the Governor failed to disclose the 2 loans form Jonnie Williams on a bank application. While there is no smoking gun in the case, much of the case will rest on the testimony of Jonnie Williams who has been given immunity. He will serve no jail time or charges. And that’s the biggest issue with the government’s case. There are no taped conversations, no confessions, no direct statements of promises by Bob McDonnell. Until the trial starts, it will not be known who exactly will testify—only the names as potential witnesses which includes the Governor’s immediate family and past employees. It is not known if Bob McDonnell will testify. And Maureen McDonnell’s defense team has indicated that she will not testify since the trials were not tried separately.
Virginia juries are known to be unforgiving when it comes to crime. Yet, a trial of this type is a first for Virginia, as it potentially puts a black eye on Virginia and the Governor’s office. Stay tuned for further updates as the trial progresses.