January 24th, 2014
09:40 AM ET
10 months ago

Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, wife plead not guilty to gift charges

Updated 2:39 p.m. ET, 1/23/2014

Richmond, Virginia (CNN) - Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell greeted his pastor, acknowledged the media, and proclaimed himself in good health on Friday in court where he and his wife pleaded not guilty to federal charges they accepted illegal gifts.

Considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney in 2012 and a potential candidate for the White House itself down the road, a one-time rising star of the Republican Party has experienced a slow-motion fall from prominence over a scandal involving fancy clothes, golf clubs and a guy named Jonnie.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, appeared in federal court in Richmond to answer a grand jury indictment charging them with 14 counts of fraud by a public official, false statements, and obstruction.

That translates into allegations they accepted a lot of nice stuff from a business executive in return for using the power of the governor's office to benefit his products - a quid pro quo they deny completely.

So convinced is McDonnell, 59, the Justice Department has gone too far and can't win at trial, he apparently rejected a plea deal that would have spared his wife from prosecution, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The source characterized McDonnell's decision as "throwing his wife under the bus."

The federal probe involved the relationship between the state's first family and Jonnie Williams, the chief executive of a troubled nutritional supplement company, Star Scientific.

Authorities allege that Williams gave gifts and loans to the McDonnell family, and that they promoted his company.

The gifts have been valued at a minimum of $140,000 in total and included designer clothes, a Rolex watch, golf clubs, iPhones and a painting, according to a list of items in the indictment.

McDonnell has admitted using poor judgment but nothing worse than that.

"I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship," he said following the indictment.

At the courthouse on Friday, McDonnell looked directly at reporters and greeted them: "Glad you came."

Later Judge David Novak said "the gamesmanship with the media ends now."

Novak said he wants the trial to take place in the courtroom, "not from some anonymous leaker."

The family's priest, Rev. Wayne Ball, met and prayed with family members in the hallway outside the courtroom. He greeted McDonnell and prayed with his wife.

Asked by Novak if he's being treated by a physician, McDonnell said he's taking blood pressure medicine.
"I'm fine, your honor," he added.

McDonnell left office this month following the end of his single term. His next big appointment is scheduled for July when the trial is due to start.


Filed under: Bob McDonnell • Virginia
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Hogan's Goat

    His defense strategy has been leaked. He's going to show up for trial buck naked and wrapped in a flag, screaming "Benghazi!" over and over. His lawyers will claim that someone else, somewhere else, a long time ago, once did something similar, and for that reason he should be acquitted. Then they will filibuster.

    January 24, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. Malory Archer

    jdc

    Ok.. Let's see.

    Blagovich (sp) was CONICTED of multiple felonies including bribary. Was he simply a "liberal jerk"?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    No, he was a criminal. What's your point?

    January 24, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. Hooper

    The lady looks like she's real happy. Apparently being thrown under the bus didn't set too well with her.

    January 24, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. Mahin khan

    very sad, this should not be done.

    January 24, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    tom l

    @Rudy
    "Unfortunately, the right wing does not believe that you work as hard as the makers. In fact, the right does not believe that you have ever work at all, nor plan to ever work in your life"
    ====

    Huh? I don't get it. I don't think you understand conservatives whatsoever with a comment like that.
    ================================================================
    Hey, Fair. You explain it to him. He claims to not listen to Rush or Fox. Maybe he should once in a while.

    January 24, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. cold in connecticut

    He threw his wife under the bus ..news flash...the republicans have been throwing people under the bus..over the bus..off the train...for years..so come on girl take one for the team. ..or return everyrhing he bought you. ...lol

    January 24, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Angy

    Doug

    I consider such a plea deal immoral and unethical on the part of the prosecutor. This sounds like a very weak case to me. More disturbing storyline is that anyone who seems to cross swords with our dictator Obama gets indicted.
    ___
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________

    Right, blame President Obama. Face facts. The Repugs are doing themselves in. They have spent to much time blaming Obama, they forgot to cover their own tracks. LOL!.

    January 24, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. The REAL Truth...

    According to the GOP a Rolex is considered a "legal gift"????? Really.. can anyone find me a real Rolex under $100?
    Accepting a Rolex is not legal... boy, these Republicans will spin anything to blame someone but themselves.

    January 24, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. ShawnDH

    Typical Republican.

    January 24, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. ShawnDH

    Doug whined: "I consider such a plea deal immoral and unethical on the part of the prosecutor. This sounds like a very weak case to me. More disturbing storyline is that anyone who seems to cross swords with our dictator Obama gets indicted."
    __________________

    Sure. Your imaginary victimhood complex is getting really old.

    January 24, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. J Robinson

    The Virginia governorship is a weak and mostly inconsequential political office. Evidence the weakling currently holding it. But notice the nicely orchestrated timing of this "scandal", to coincide with another potential candidate governor's woes. And, behind the translucent curtains are Clinton operatives bent on clearing the path for Her Majesty's ascension.

    January 24, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. Hogan's Goat

    "our dictator Obama " Wow, you don't sound insane at all, do you? Tell us the one about the Kenyan Birth Certificate, Grampaw. That's the funniest one of all.

    January 24, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  13. Jojola

    McConnell stated, "He deeply regrets accepting "legal" gifts and loans." If they were "legal" then why is he being indicted? Come on man, you are a governor, you didn't think to check the legalities of it all? Sounds a little suspect to me. Just another egotistical abuse of power governor who thinks he's above the law.

    January 24, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. Liberal Iowan

    Why wouldn't he throw his wife under the bus. He has no respect for women.

    January 24, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. Johnny Ondaspot

    Must be a dimocrat – there's no repeated use of the word Republican in the story or even the political affiliation of the tools in question.

    January 24, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Sounds like the tipical GOP position, the wife being subservant to her GOP baffon husband like the Neanderthal mike hick hickaby!!!!?

    January 24, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  17. sly

    "Try switching to Ms.Clinton's birth certificate."
    =====
    You are joking, but hundreds of Confederates eye's just lit up. "Wow, thats a good idea – I haven't ever seen Hillary's birth certifcate. Where's her birth certificate? Huh, where is it! And her husband was never President, cause I never saw his either. Squawk Squawk".

    January 24, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. ChrisM

    Well, isn't that republicans do ALL THE TIME.

    January 24, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  19. Silence DoGood

    @sly
    "Try switching to Ms.Clinton's birth certificate."
    =====
    You are joking, but hundreds of Confederates eye's just lit up. "Wow, thats a good idea – I haven't ever seen Hillary's birth certifcate. Where's her birth certificate? Huh, where is it! And her husband was never President, cause I never saw his either. Squawk Squawk".
    ---–
    Yes I forgot to put up (joke alert). I will bet money and give you long odds there are at least 1000 foil-hats out there ready to mount a Ms.Birther cause.

    January 24, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    The REAL Truth...

    According to the GOP a Rolex is considered a "legal gift"????? Really.. can anyone find me a real Rolex under $100?
    Accepting a Rolex is not legal... boy, these Republicans will spin anything to blame someone but themselves.
    ----------------------
    According to what passes for campaign finance laws in Virginia, yes, it's a legal gift. The crime would be quid pro quo, which will be rather difficult to do. However, I'm sure they would not have filed charges if they didn't have actual hard evidence of it. No connect the days ladies and gentlemen of the jury. They need hard proof.

    January 24, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. Hogan's Goat

    " hundreds of Confederates eye's just lit up" Don't blame the South for the Tea Party.

    January 24, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. airjackie

    Bob a former State AG knows the Feds have to prove intent. Bob used his wife to get the goods but he got sloppy as his term was ending and even did a photo promo, lied to the bank and the Rolex watch. Now to be fair the McDonnells lost a lot in the Recession and the need for money was great. Maureen need designer clothes when entertaining women like Ann Romney. The need to be elite to hold the office of President. Many would love Mr. Williams as a friend who gives you what you want without asking for anything in return just like Santa Clause.

    January 24, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. The Catskinner

    Almost Romney's running mate? It's amazing how close these thieves and thugs can come to absolute power.

    January 24, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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