Judge refuses to dismiss McDonnell’s corruption charges

A federal judge on Tuesday denied motions by former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, to dismiss the corruption charges against them and allow separate trials.
 
Lawyers for Virginia’s former first couple took issue with the indictment against them, arguing that prosecutors had not shown that they acted in an “official” capacity in exchange for alleged bribes.
 
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The Fourth Circuit Court, however, found that their conduct did “fall under the umbrella of official acts,’” U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer wrote Tuesday.
 
“Whether Defendants’ conduct in fact constituted ‘the corruption of official positions through misuse of influence in governmental decision-making’ is a question for the jury based on the evidence adduced at trial,” he said, denying their motion to dismiss the charges.
 
The couple had also requested that they be tried separately, but the judge said they failed to prove that a joint trial would be unfair. 
 
“Defendants have failed to meet their burden to show that a joint trial will result in a miscarriage of justice or prevent Robert McDonnell from receiving a fair trial,” Spencer said. 
 
The case will now go to trial on the previously scheduled date of July 28.  
 
The couple could face decadeslong prison sentences and fines of more than $1 million. 
 
In January, a federal grand jury indicted the couple on 14 counts related to their decision to receive thousands of gifts and loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., an executive at dietary supplement company Star Scientific.
 
The couple accepted more than $135,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans from Williams.
 
Some of the gifts included a Rolex watch inscribed with the governor’s name, a trip to a Final Four college basketball game and a New York City shopping spree.
 
The indictment said the couple broke federal law by using the governor’s official office to help Williams, who wanted his supplement to be covered under a state plan. 
 
McDonnell’s term as governor ended just days before the indictment was announced. He was elected in 2009.