Corruption trial of Virginia ex-governor, wife, nears end

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2014 10:31 AM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - The federal corruption and fraud trial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife is nearing its end after defense lawyers wrapped up their cases.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, face a 14-count indictment for allegedly accepting $177,000 in gifts and loans from dietary supplement entrepreneur Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for promoting his company.

Lawyers for Maureen McDonnell rested their case in U.S. District Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors were expected to present a rebuttal witness on Thursday, and Judge James Spencer said most of the day would go to preparing instructions for jurors.

Spencer said he hoped closing arguments in the trial, now in its fifth week, would be made on Friday. The case would then go to the jury.

Lawyers for McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife have contended that their marriage was broken and they could not have conspired with Williams since they were not talking to each other.

During five days on the witness stand, McDonnell insisted that he had only performed routine courtesies for Williams, the chief executive of Star Scientific Inc. He said Williams had never specifically asked him to do anything.

Williams was granted immunity to testify for the prosecution about what he described as a “business relationship” with the McDonnells. Williams said he wanted to get state-backed research for his main product, the anti-inflammatory Anatabloc.

If convicted of all charges, the couple could spend 20 years in prison and face hefty fines. McDonnell's term as governor ended in January.

(Editing by Ian Simpson and Mohammad Zargham)