The Bob and Maureen McDonnell indictment was fun reading, but so far, the trial is even more entertaining. Why? A novel defense theory. A passed-up plea bargain. And a major public spectacle that could last for weeks.
So goes the trial of the former Virginia governor and his wife, accused of taking gifts from Johnnie Williams, a nutritional supplement manufacturer, in exchange for favors and "official acts."
Here are three of the highlights, so far:
1. A Passed-Up Plea Deal Could've Spared Maureen.
According to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, the disgraced former Virginia governor was offered a sweetheart deal: plead guilty to one charge unrelated to his official duties and his wife would've walked away free. (And his children wouldn't have had to testify.)
Instead, both spouses are on trial, sitting at opposite ends of the defense table, each with their own team of attorneys.
2. The Defense: Our Marriage Sucks, My Wife Likes Johnnie.
If that doesn't sound conducive to martial harmony, well, that's probably because there is none. The couples' defense seems to be that their marriage is (and has been) in shambles and that Maureen had a "crush" on Johnnie.
That somehow explains the Rolex purchased by Johnnie (at Maureen's request) for Bob, the lavish weekends for the family, the golf games for the son, the money spent on the daughter's wedding, etc. And the governor using his power to allow Johnnie's company to have a launch party at the Governor's Mansion, and to set up meetings between state officials and Williams.
Meetings which, as those officials testified, were set up by the governor and were understood to be blow-off meetings. (Is that the defense -- it's not an official act if you were just humoring the fool?)
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3. Johnnie Williams Is a Really Good Snitch.
Johnnie already seemed like an eager cooperating witness in the pre-trial proceedings, but during the trial itself, he seems to have taken it to a new level.
According to Milbank, at one point, he was so eager to talk that the judge had to shut him up, stating, "Mr. Williams, there is no question before you."
He's sung about the golf games and clubs purchased for McDonnell's son, the generator obtained for the daughter's wedding, the Rolex obtained for Bob, and the shopping spree for Maureen, along with numerous requests that he denied.
And, of course, he stated, "I don't believe I would have been close friends with the governor and his family if not for all the money."
- McDonnell Lawyers Told to Slow Filings 'For the Sanctity of the Trees' (FindLaw's U.S. Fourth Circuit Blog)
- Bostic Aftermath: Stay Sought, States React Differently (FindLaw's U.S. Fourth Circuit Blog)
- Pamela Harris Confirmed; Republican Senator Exasperated (FindLaw's U.S. Fourth Circuit Blog)