McDonnells request for dismissal, motion for severance denied


by 13News Now/Associated Press

Associated Press

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 5:09 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 4:49 AM

UPDATE 5/20: The McDonnells' request to dismiss counts one through 11 of the indictment and the motion for severance were denied Tuesday.

RICHMOND  -- A judge says he'll rule Tuesday on key defense requests in the federal corruption prosecution of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer heard arguments Monday in Richmond from attorneys for McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

They are seeking the dismissal of most of the corruption charges filed against them, as well as separate trials.

The government opposes both requests.

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 defense argued Monday that counts one through 11 of the indictment should be dismissed because the facts do not allege a crime.

Assuming the facts are true, McDonnell's attorneys argued, they do not amount to a crime under the statute or existing case law. 

According to McDonnell's attorneys, the facts allege McDonnell merely arranged for meetings with government officials for Williams but did not take any "official action."  They argued that politicians often offer access to candidates at campaign fundraisers in exchange for campaign donations.

Specifically, the indictment says McDonnell arranged for two meetings between Williams and members of his administration: one with a Department of Health staffer and another with the Secretary of Administration, both times to discuss a dietary supplement Williams was selling.

Prosecutors said there is a difference between campaign donations and the gifts from Williams. Here, the prosecutor argued, the couple "lined their pockets with more than $150,000 in gifts in exchange for favors."

Prosecutors argue that, in this case, Bob McDonnell arranged for the meetings in exchange for the gifts. Even though nothing came from the meetings, the fact that they could have resulted in action being taken on behalf of Williams makes the facilitation of the meetings official action.

On the motion for severance, McDonnell's attorneys argued that two separate trials are necessary for Maureen to testify against the governor.

Attorneys for the former governor told a judge that Maureen would not take the stand in her own defense or waive her marital privilege in a joint trial. But, attorneys for both Bob and Maureen told a judge she would testify on Bob's behalf if the trials were separate.

Attorneys for Bob argued Maureen's testimony is crucial in his case as exculpatory evidence to refute what Williams is expected to say.

Defense attorneys have declined to disclose specifics of what Maureen would testify about, citing confidential trial strategy.

Prosecutors argued that they have not gotten any information from the defense, making it almost impossible for them to respond to motions on the issue.

The lead prosecutor in the case did tell a judge that the defense has changed it's story several times on whether or not Maureen will testify at Bob's trial if they were to be held separately.

The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty.

The judge will rule on motions to dismiss and separate trials on Tuesday.

A jury trial that is expected to last at least five weeks is scheduled to begin in late July.