Federal prosecutors released a 14-count indictment against former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen. At the center of it all is the relationship between the McDonnells and Jonnie R. Williams, Sr., formerly an executive with Star Scientific, a maker of dietary supplements.
During McDonnell’s campaign for governor, Williams allowed the campaign the use of his private jet, continuing to allow operatives for his political action committee to use it after he was inaugurated. Williams not only allegedly gave the McDonnells lavish gifts—such as a $15,000 shopping spree for Maureen McDonnell and a $15,000 wedding gift for their daughter—but also loaned the Governor at least $120,000, which McDonnell claims to have repaid.
Although, according to The Week, the “worst” allegation was not that Governor McDonnell allegedly used his influence to help Star Scientific’s business, but that he also considered using his employees as a “control group” for experiments involving the company’s anti-inflammation drug derived from tobacco plants.
The McDonnells, however, claim that they have done nothing wrong and plan to mount a strong defense. In a statement, McDonnell said “We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations.”
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Though their first hearing was scheduled for Friday, January 24, 2014, the defense asked the judge to postpone the hearing because a member of the legal team is out of the country and cannot return until after that date, according to The Washington Post. If convicted the McDonnells could face decades in prison, bring the total number of Governors-turned-prisons to 11.
Newly-inaugurated Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe made limiting the amount of gifts public figures (or their staff and families) can receive one of the first things he did after taking office.