Corruption trial of former Va. governor Bob McDonnell begins - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Corruption trial of former Va. governor Bob McDonnell begins

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By LARRY O'DELL
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party, and his wife began Monday in federal court with jury selection.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from the CEO of a dietary supplements company in exchange for helping promote his products. Their trial is expected to last at least five weeks.

Before the trial's opening, federal prosecutors filed a list of 61 potential witnesses, including Maureen McDonnell and the couple's three children, Sean, Rachel and Bobby.

The defense filed a list that includes 121 potential witnesses, many of them overlapping with the prosecutors' list. Potential defense witnesses include Bob McDonnell, former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell.

Bob McDonnell was considered a possible Mitt Romney running mate in 2012 before the federal investigation ruined his political future.

In court, U.S. District Judge James Spencer asked a pool of 150 potential jurors routine questions, including whether they knew or were related to any of the people involved in the case.

Ten days after leaving office in January, McDonnell was indicted. Before the indictment, he apologized for what he described as bad judgment and said he repaid about $120,000 in gifts and loans, but he denied breaking any laws. He and his lawyers have argued that prosecutors are trying to criminalize routine and long-accepted political courtesies, such as hosting receptions and arranging meetings, that fall short of more tangible rewards historically associated with bribery.

Prosecutors have countered that the McDonnells' willingness to help former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams on "an as-needed basis" and Williams' expectation of something in return, regardless of whether he received it, is enough to support a conviction. If the jury agrees, the McDonnells could face decades in prison.

Williams is expected to testify under immunity as the prosecution's star witness.

According to the indictment, Williams lavished the McDonnells with designer clothes, golf outings, vacations and large loans while seeking government help promoting his company's products and securing grants for research studies. No government grants were awarded, but the indictment says the McDonnells hosted or appeared at numerous events to further the company's interests.

Prosecutors filed an exhibit list that totals 615 items and entered the courthouse with 13 boxes of documents on three dollies. The exhibits include some of the former governor's bank records, emails and text messages as well as some of the gifts Williams gave to the McDonnells, including a Rolex watch, Louis Vuitton shoes, and an Oscar de la Renta dress.

The defense exhibit list includes 208 items. The list includes videos of McDonnell and Williams playing golf.

In another development Monday, Spencer ordered Williams' former assistant, Jerri Fulkerson, to testify at the trial. Fulkerson had previously indicated she would decline to answer questions to avoid incriminating herself.

Defense attorneys said in a motion last week that prosecutors have indicated that Fulkerson may have signed Williams' signature to some documents she notarized, which they said could be illegal.

Spencer's order gives Fulkerson immunity for her testimony.

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Associated Press Writer Alan Suderman contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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