January 24, 2014, 11:32 am
Ex-Gov. McDonnell and wife plead not guilty to 14 corruption counts
By Rebecca Shabad
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, pleaded not guilty on Friday to 14 counts of federal corruption.
The judge scheduled a jury trial for the McDonnells that will begin on July 28 and could last for five to six weeks.
The McDonnells were released after the arraignment. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak ordered them not to leave the United States, the Associated Press reports. McDonnell’s attorney says the couple gave up their passports.
A federal grand jury indicted McDonnell and his wife on Tuesday with 14 counts of corruption charges after being accused of accepting large loans, expensive gifts and luxury vacations from a businessman and major political donor.
The former governor and his wife could face decades-long prison sentences and fines of more than $1 million.
Prosecutors accuse the couple of accepting gifts from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., an executive at Star Scientific, a dietary supplement company. In return, McDonnell is accused of giving Williams special treatment from the governor’s office to help his company.
On Tuesday afternoon, McDonnell denied doing anything illegal for Williams, and said he had returned the gifts and loans.
“I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship. I never promised — and Mr. Williams and his company never received — any government benefit of any kind from me or my administration.
"We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government,” McDonnell said in the statement.
Virginia’s former first couple accepted more than $135,000 in direct payments as loans and gifts from Williams.
The gifts included a New York City shopping spree for McDonnell’s wife, a trip to watch a Final Four college basketball game, a Rolex watch that had the governor’s title inscribed into it and a stay at a vacation home, among others.
The indictment said McDonnell and his wife broke federal law by using the governor’s office to help Williams. The executive wanted one of his company’s supplements to be included as medications covered under the state employee health plan.
The couple also lied on loan applications instead of declaring their debts, the indictment said.
McDonnell rejected a plea deal that would have required him to plead guilty to only one felony charge, and would have spared his wife any charges, several reports said Friday.
Authorities proposed the plea deal, but the governor rejected that option, which would have prevented McDonnell from facing trial, The Washington Post reports.
The one felony charge, The Post says, would not have encompassed any corruption.
McDonnell’s term as governor ended on Jan. 11. He was elected in 2009, and the commonwealth’s governors are limited to one term.