McDonnell arguments wrap up, case moves to jury Tuesday

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13News Now, WUSA & The Associated Press

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 5:44 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 29 at 10:01 PM

Live coverage of the McDonnell trial

RICHMOND -- Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's lawyer is making final arguments in McDonnell's corruption trial, saying McDonnell never did anything to help a businessman who supposedly bribed him.

The McDonnells are accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's product, Anatabloc.

Bob McDonnell's lawyer, Henry Asbill, said the government's case has a gaping hole: McDonnell never did anything on Williams' behalf, other than put him touch with people in his administration.

McDonnell took the stand in his own defense, and said what he did for Williams was no different than what he would do on behalf of any Virginia-based business.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors questioned the motives of the couple. Federal prosecutor David Harbach spent two and a half hours delivering a strong closing argument. He told the jury that this investigation did not happen just because Bob McDonnell was governor. Harbach said it happened because what McDonnell did was wrong.

"They spent a lot of time talking about his 38 years of public service, wrapped in the Commonwealth flag, making you forget he stomped on it by selling out his office," Harbach said in his closing arguments.

Harbach told a story of bribery, lies and cover ups, walking the jury through the timeline of the alleged corruption. This is fundamentally a simple case with one question, Harbach began. Why?

"Why did he (Williams) give them, why did they (McDonnells) take them?" Harbach asked, referring to gifts and loans in exchange for official acts, the alleged quid pro quo.

The story, as told by Harbach, begins with an April 2011 shopping spree in New York for Maureen McDonnell and ends with the former First Lady trying to allegedly obstruct justice after an interview with state police.

Bob McDonnell knew exactly what Jonnie Williams wanted and he used his official capacity as governor to deliver, Harbach said.

"He was on the Jonnie Williams gravy train," Harbach said.

Bob McDonnell hid gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams from his staff because "he knew his deal with Jonnie was dirty," Harbach said.

"The defense is trying to divert the blame and distract the jury from a 'mountain of evidence,'" Harbach told the jury.

Harbach walked the jury through the 14 counts in the indictment. Bob and Maureen McDonnell are both charged on counts 1 through 11 for public corruption. The former governor is charged on count 12 for making false statements to a bank. The couple is charged on count 13 for making false statements to a bank. Maureen McDonnell is charged on count 14 for obstruction.

"Don't let him sit there and stand on the coat tails of Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. This is bribery. This is corruption. Don't let that stand," Harbach finished his closing argument.

Going into court at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Bob McDonnell said, "I feel good. I've just kept my eyes on the Lord and my thoughts on the facts, and that's all I can do one day at a time."

When a reporter noted that his whole family was at court, including his son, McDonnell stated, "He just got back from Vanderbilt. The whole family is here. My greatest strength and enjoyment is my five children and they're all here."

Asked whether this was the "most important campaign of your life", McDonnell replied, "It's not a campaign. It's a search for the truth. That's what the system is all about."

"Were you able to sleep any better last night?" a reporter asked.

"Sure. I slept tight," replied McDonnell.

Defense attorneys for Maureen McDonnell and then Bob McDonnell will deliver their closing arguments next, followed by the prosecutions rebuttal.

Reporter Nick Ochsner will be in the courtroom for this morning's closing arguments. He'll be tweeting updates throughout the day. You can see those tweets on our live blog at WVEC.com.

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