UVa Visitor's Gift among New Evidence against Former Gov. McDonnell

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

June 24, 2014

New allegations in a gift-giving scandal surrounding former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, involve a prominent figure at the University of Virginia.

Court documents recently released show the governor accepted a trip in 2012 from William Goodwin, who just weeks later became a special adviser to UVa.'s Board of Visitors.

"It's definitely not a good thing for the governor's legal team to have to fend off now other allegations," said legal analyst Scott Goodman. "The prosecution is trying to show that Gov. McDonnell, as part of a pattern of conduct, was on the make, so to speak. He was having his hand out to receive extra employment income."

The McDonnells' trial is scheduled to begin on July 28. The couple is facing charges that they did favors for businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for money and gifts.

"Now, additional information has come forward that it's not just Jonnie Williams that has been the source of these goodies," Goodman said.

Court documents show Goodwin, who was elevated earlier this year to vice rector of UVa.'s board, gave the governor a $23,000 trip to a South Carolina golf resort in 2012. He was later appointed to be a special adviser to the visitors.

"The judge will have to decide whether or not the government has shown enough of a connection between the governor's conduct in receiving these other gifts and the governor's actions involving Mr. Williams," Goodman said.

The governor's defense team is trying to keep this information out since the original indictments only involve the couple's relationship with Jonnie Williams. But even if a judge rules in the defense's favor, the jury may still get this information surrounding other gifts.

Should the McDonnells take the stand in their own defense, the prosecution would likely be able to give other examples of their conduct.

"The prosecution could bring into evidence these other incidents and argue to the jury, 'Well, the governor sure had a lot of friends and he sure, by coincidence, happened to do favors for all the people who did things for him,'" Goodman said.

In any case, the governor can't afford much more attention.

"It's clear that the only reason why these people gave Gov. McDonnell these freebies and these extra trips and this money was because he was governor and could do something for them," Goodman said. "And this is the dangerous picture that the defense team knows they have to fight."

The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty to the 14 counts against them.

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