Monday, November 20, 2017
News Roundup

Corruption case of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell heads to jury

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RICHMOND, Va. — After 67 witnesses over five weeks, the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, will soon be handed to the jury of seven men and five women who will decide the couple's fate.

Attorneys on both sides Friday made their closing arguments in a case that has generated soap-opera buzz since the state's former first couple pinned their defense largely on a self-dissection of their own failed relationship.

The verdict will come down to whether the jury believes Robert McDonnell, a former attorney general and onetime vice presidential prospect, struck a corrupt deal with a flamboyant vitamin salesman who was given immunity to testify and was described by prosecutors as a "criminal."

The McDonnells face a 14-count public corruption indictment alleging that they lent the prestige of the governor's office to that salesman, Jonnie Williams, in exchange for $177,000 in gifts and loans.

In their summary, prosecutors emphasized the litany of actions the former governor took on behalf of Williams and his nutritional supplement, Anatabloc, including allowing a governor's mansion event that helped launch the product and setting up meetings with state officials. McDonnell then lied about many of the dealings, including on official disclosure forms and on a loan application, prosecutors argued.

But McDonnell's attorney told jurors that Williams, the government's star witness, is a liar. Williams' testimony was a fable he created to avoid prosecution in an unrelated stock inquiry, defense attorney Henry "Hank" Asbill said in his summary.

Maureen McDonnell's lead counsel, William Burck, beseeched the jury to consider how a gift-giving, fast-talking businessman had exploited a shattered marriage and inserted himself in the life of a fragile first lady. He said his client was "gaga for Jonnie" and an unintended victim in prosecutors' unyielding pursuit of her husband.

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