Prosecutor: Case against former Va. Gov. McDonnell is 'simple'

A lawyer for Maureen McDonnell, Virginia's former first lady, told jurors in Richmond that "weird is not a crime."
By Frances Burns   |   Aug. 29, 2014 at 3:32 PM
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RICHMOND, Va., Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A prosecutor said Friday the charges against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife are a "simple case" of cash and gifts exchanged for favors.

David V. Harbach II, a federal prosecutor, said the McDonnells received $177,000 in loans and gifts from Jonnie Williams Sr., former CEO of Star Scientific. He said the couple knew what Williams wanted in return.

"This is fundamentally a simple case," Harbach said as he began a two-hour closing argument.

But a lawyer for Maureen McDonnell said her actions, while possibly "tacky" and "weird," were not criminal. William Burck said prosecutors presented no evidence that the McDonnells were in a joint conspiracy to aid Williams or to promote his neutracitical, Anatabloc.

The former governor's defense is that any boosting of Williams, his company and Anatabloc was done by Maureen without his cooperation. Her defense is that she was not a public official.

Burck said Maureen was trying to get away from her husband. He acknowledged jurors may think her close relationship with the married Williams was inappropriate or strange.

"Weird is not a crime," he said.

Williams turned on the McDonnells and cooperated in a government investigation because he himself was the target of a Securities and Exchange Commission probe, Burck said.

Harbach emphasized the gifts the couple received from Williams. They included $15,000 in cash for their daughter's wedding and designer clothes.

The prosecutor said the jury has one question to answer: "The single, simple question of this case is why did he give them, why did they take them?"

The jury is expected to begin deliberations Tuesday after the Labor Day break.

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