July 27, 2014
Former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen McDonnell are facing 14 federal corruption charges after a lengthy investigation into gifts given to them by Jonnie Williams, the CEO of dietary supplements company Star Scientific, in exchange for helping promote his products.
An investigation uncovered gifts including private plane rides, golf outings, expensive apparel from Williams dating back as far as 2009, when McDonnell first took office.
They were indicted this past January and plead not guilty to the charges, but the couple argues that they made errors in how they accepted certain gifts from Williams.
Over $165,000 was given through gifts and loans to the McDonnell's by Williams, the question now is, was it illegal to accept these gifts?
“Was what he did, was what his wife did, was it against the law?” says Scott Goodman, Charlottesville defense attorney. “Of course that will put the spotlight on how lax the laws are in Virginia, about what is legal and what you can actually do.”
Goodman says that it's going to come down to the testimony from Jonnie Williams who gave money to both Bob and Maureen McDonnell.
“Money for his daughter's wedding, vacation trips, dresses for his wife, actual money being put in his account,” says Goodman. “But again this is going to come down to whether or not the jury is going to believe the primary government witness, Mr. Williams, who is going to testify that these were items that were traded for benefits for him from the governor and the administration, or the governor who is saying that yes I did receive all of these gifts, but I did not do anything for him that I wouldn't do for anyone else.”
The trial is expected to last at least a month and throughout, McDonnell’s defense team will try to showcase the character of the former governor, and Bob McDonnell might take the stand.
But Goodman says the real issue is that should be tougher laws when it comes to gifts for politicians.
“There's not going to be anyone without any doubt that the governor shouldn't have done the things that he did, it's just a question of is it against the law?” says Goodman. “That's the real shame of Virginia that the law allows so many of these things to happen.”
“So many disbursements of money disguised as campaign contributions, but they are really just gifts to these politicians.”
We will have coverage on the trial starting on Monday, both online and on CBS19 News.