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Closing arguments today in McDonnell trial

Friday, August 29, 2014


RICHMOND — An FBI agent testified Thursday that former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife spent many nights together in the governor’s mansion. The testimony was a final effort to undercut the defense argument that the couple’s failing marriage made a conspiracy implausible.

The agent was the final witness jurors heard in the McDonnells’ public corruption trial. They will return this morning for closing arguments before beginning deliberations on 14 charges punishable by up to decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

McDonnell spent more than four days on the witness stand proclaiming his innocence and describing how his marriage deteriorated as he climbed the political ladder, ultimately reaching the office once held by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. The defense claims the marriage was so strained that the McDonnells could not have pulled off a criminal conspiracy.

They are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts, trips and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s supposed cure-all, the tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory Anatabloc.

Williams testified under immunity that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells only to get their help as he sought credibility for the product and state-backed research on its effectiveness. Maureen McDonnell’s attorney said the first lady developed a “crush” on Williams, but he testified they weren’t even friends — that the relationship was strictly business.

The last witness was FBI agent Kathryn Weber, who analyzed the McDonnells’ cell phone records and calendars and concluded that they spent 90 percent of their nights together during the 22 months that were the focus of the investigation. The testimony was intended to undercut the marital discord theory promoted by the defense.

Most of the nights together were in the governor’s mansion, Weber testified, but some were on trips.

Bob McDonnell’s attorney, John Brownlee, challenged Weber’s methodology and conclusions. He rattled off 20 occasions when McDonnell did not arrive at the governor’s mansion until 11 p.m. or later, implying that the couple couldn’t have had much time together on those nights.

Brownlee also pointed to several blank daily calendars for Maureen McDonnell, which the FBI agent counted as nights at the mansion. In response to the attorney’s question, Weber said she was not aware that Maureen McDonnell sometimes spent the night at the couple’s private home in suburban Richmond.

Prosecutor Jessica Aber suggested that the few instances raised by Brownlee did not substantially alter the overall picture of how often the McDonnells were together.

McDonnell had testified that he got into the habit of working late to avoid going home and dealing with his wife’s anger, and that he and his wife are living apart during the trial.


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