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McDonnells' Motions Fail: Charges Stand, Joint Trial Set for July 28

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 21, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Robert "Bob" McDonnell, the embattled former Virginia governor, and his wife and co-defendant Maureen McDonnell, made an appearance in court yesterday, seeking to dismiss the case against them, and failing that, to sever their trial.

Both requests were denied, however, and the couple's joint trial is scheduled to proceed on July 28, reports NPR.

The Charges

If you missed the indictment earlier this year, the former governor and his wife have been accused of using the power of his office in order to obtain bribes from Johnnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Supplements, a nutrition supplement company. The indictment recounted favors provided by Gov. McDonnell and his wife, as well as gifts from Williams and his company to the couple. 

Williams was a cooperating witness in the investigation, and the evidence recounted in the indictment seems damning.

No Dismissal

Attorneys for the McDonnell couple asked the court to dismiss the charges, arguing that the indictment failed to specify any specific "official acts" undertaken by the governor. He has admitted taking gifts from Williams, and has apologized for it, but maintains that his actions were not illegal, reports the Daily Press.

According to the indictment, the couple threw parties, and exerted influence over state agencies that were set to rule on matters related to the company. Star Scientific did not receive the contracts or funding it sought, however.

The court denied the couple's motion to dismiss, noting that their alleged actions were "analogous" to acts that the Fourth Circuit has held "fall under the umbrella of 'official acts.'"

No Separate Trials

The federal judge also denied the couple's request for separate trials. Maureen McDonnell had argued that in a joint trial, she would have to exercise her Fifth Amendment rights due to separate charges that are pending against her alone, but if there were separate trials, she would provide exculpatory testimony on her husband's behalf.

Their argument fell on deaf ears, however, as the court agreed with federal prosecutors, who argued that the defense's "vague and conclusory statements" about possible testimony were insufficient to warrant separate trials.

Judge Spencer noted that defendants that are indicted together should be tried together, absent a showing that the joint trial "will result in a miscarriage of justice." Defense attorneys argued that they shouldn't have to disclose their trial strategy ahead of time.

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