Opening Statements in Corruption Trial

Jul 29, 2014

Maureen McDonnell arrives at the courthouse.

The second day of the federal corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, began with instructions to the jury that they must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt by the evidence—and not by leaks or media accounts.

Prosecutor Jessica Aber  recounted the indictment’s theory that the McDonnells exchanged official acts for gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.  But  the bombshells hit when the couple’s defense attorneys spoke.

Defense attorney William Burck said Maureen McDonnell was not a public official with the power to sell her office. Instead, she had a crush on Jonnie Williams as her marriage broke down and he lavished her with attention and respect. Burck said she promoted his products because she believed in them and trusted him. 

He said the federal case alleges a conspiracy with her husband, but there could BE none since the McDonnells spoke infrequently due to her husband’s long work days and travel—and that she had hidden gifts from him.

Defense attorney John Brownlee agreed that the former governor’s long hours had taken a toll, and that his wife had told him she hated him. Brownlee showed videos of McDonnell passionately promoting Virginia businesses —and said he would never require payments to promote them.

Both attorneys also said Williams’ statements changed to bolster the federal case as his immunity deals grew to full, transactional immunity for a suspicious stock sale and other acts. They said his get-out-of jail-free card was lying to prosecutors.