Former Governor Bob McDonnell took the stand yesterday, defending his conduct in connection with Jonnie Williams Sr. and Star Scientific in precisely the way one would expect: Other than providing access to government, something that every governor does, he said, he did Williams no favors. As the Times-Dispatch summarized his testimony, “He never used discretionary funds at his disposal to give Star Scientific a grant, never paid a site visit to the company, and never held a news conference or issued a news release for the company.”

The fact that people are disgusted with the influence of money in politics is not an argument for convicting McDonnell. If McDonnell can be sent to jail for arranging meetings between Williams and state officials, then every living governor in Virginia had better start taking measurements for their orange prison jump suits. As for failing to disclose the real estate loans from Williams in loan applications to a bank and a credit union, the defense has made the case that he wasn’t required to — and the prosecution hasn’t presented a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise.

The only thing that can change the course of this trial is an aggressive cross-examination by the prosecution. If McDonnell comes across as contradictory or evasive, he could raise doubts that don’t exist now. But at this point, it does not appear that federal prosecutors have a case.


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3 responses to “McDonnell on the Stand”

  1. I would think by now – all the facts that the prosecution had – are already on the table – and the defense now has the opportunity to undermine them.

    So I agree but I’ve said that all along.. legally – Federal law legally – this is a half-dead gnat on a dog’s butt .. probably never was anything more than that – but in Va.. if you violate the disclosure law (which I think is MORE than a gnat) , does it really matter since the law-breaker cannot be easily brought to account without it being perceived as partisan (either pro or con)?

    if you look at VPAP for McDonnell – he disclosed a lot of gifts and in-kind cash … just as did prior Govs… but you’ll not find in that list the stuff he got from Williams.

    isn’t he breaking Virginia law by not disclosing?

    and if he can do it with impunity anyhow.. what’s the purpose of VPAP?

    WE should change the motto from Virginia is for Lovers to Virginia is for Lovers of Rubes and the wretchedly gullible.

  2. There does not need to be a proven quid pro quo in an honest services fraud case. I’d be keen to hear the opinion of one of the attorneys who frequent this site on this. However, my laymen’s understanding is that Bob McDonnell isn’t out of the woods just yet.

    However, Jim makes a good point about former governors. If what McDonnell did was illegal under the honest services fraud statute then all of the living former governors should be scrambling to check the statute of limitations on that one!

    1. I appreciate you bringing up the Honest services fraud. I was unaware of it and yes, Federal prosecutors have used it to convict some fairly famous folks

      see ” Recent notable prosecutions” under

      but it also says this:

      ” Many interest groups oppose the usage of the honest services law, including the conservative United States Chamber of Commerce and Washington Legal Foundation, as well as the more liberal National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.”

      I see none of these groups weighing in on McDonnells side and making the “all Govs would be guilty argument”. Why?

      I think the jury of public opinion (which includes those Conservative groups) have already delivered their verdict – and that verdict is that McDonnell and wife are “dirty” in ways that previous Governors and wives were not and they are not about to get between the McDonnell’s and decent ethics behaviors.

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