Prosecution Wraps Case Against Former Va. Governor
RICHMOND, Va. (CBS/AP) -- Prosecutors finished presenting their case to a jury Thursday in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.
FBI Special Agent David Hulser was the final witness of 45 the government put on the stand. His wide-ranging testimony helped prosecutors sum up their case against the McDonnells.
Bob and Maureen McDonnell began trial in July on charges that they took more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for helping promote his company's products. They also were accused of falsifying financial documents, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the federal investigation.
The ex-governor, once a rising star in the Republican Party who was widely considered a possible Mitt Romney running mate in 2012, has vigorously denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight charges that he claimed were politically motivated. He claims prosecutors improperly stretched the definition of bribery to cover long-accepted political courtesies like hosting receptions and arranging meetings for constituents with government officials.
The trial so far has produced many embarrassing details of the cozy relationship with Williams that destroyed McDonnell's political future. It has also put the McDonnell's marriage up for public scrutiny, with Maureen McDonnell's attorney arguing that she developed a crush on Williams and was "duped" into thinking he cared for her.
Williams said he lavished the McDonnells with gifts including designer clothing, a $6,500 Rolex watch, golf outings, vacations and $15,000 to cover catering expenses for a daughter's wedding. He also made three loans totaling $120,000 as the McDonnells struggled with debts related to two family-owned vacation rental properties in Virginia Beach.
CBS News affiliate WTVR in Richmond also reports that Williams paid for a weekend trip to Cape Cod for the couple that cost more than $36,000, including nearly $2,500 worth of Louis XIII cognac.
All the while, Williams was seeking help from Virginia government officials. The McDonnells attended conferences to promote Star Scientific products and hosted an event for the company at the Executive Mansion, prosecutors showed, and the governor's office arranged a meeting between Williams and the state's top health official to discuss the health benefits of the products.
The trial has been especially embarrassing for Maureen McDonnell, who was portrayed in an unfavorable light by several former aides. A onetime chief of staff to Virginia's former first lady testified that she told investigators Maureen McDonnell was "a nutbag."
McDonnell's former political adviser, Phil Cox, testified that in 2012, Williams and Maureen McDonnell tried unsuccessfully to get a meeting with GOP presidential candidate Romney to pitch Star Scientific's signature product, the anti-inflammatory Anatabloc.
Having failed to get an audience with the candidate, Maureen McDonnell cornered his wife, Ann Romney, on a campaign bus and began telling her how Anatabloc could cure her multiple sclerosis, Cox testified.
"I was horrified," Cox said. "I didn't think it sort of showed the governor in a great light."
The couple is being tried together, but with different legal representation, after U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer tossed out a motion to dismiss most of the charges against the couple and ruled that they should not be tried separately.
The defense is set to begin presenting its case Monday, and Bob McDonnell is expected to testify at some point during the trial. Their list of 121 potential witnesses, many of whom overlap with the prosecutors' list, also includes former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell.
In court papers, Bob McDonnell's attorneys argued that everything he did was consistent with a governor's mission of supporting state-based businesses and that Williams did not receive any state grants or other tangible benefits.
Maureen McDonnell is not expected to testify.
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