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Former VA. governor, wife indicted on federal charges

Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell, Wife Indicted
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Bob McDonnell had just been elected governor of Virginia when a wealthy businessman who had donated the use of his private jet during the Republican's campaign requested a meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York.

The governor-elect obliged and brought along his wife, Maureen, who during the meeting told Jonnie Williams she needed a dress for the inauguration the following month, according to a federal indictment of the McDonnells.

Williams agreed to buy her an Oscar de la Renta gown, but a Bob McDonnell aide said it would be inappropriate and nixed the idea, according to the indictment returned by a grand jury Tuesday.

Peeved, the former Washington Redskins cheerleader and future first lady fired off an email to the staffer.

"I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget," the email said. "I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I'm charging up in credit card debt. We are broke and have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done."

She ultimately told Williams, then the CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific Inc., she could not accept the dress but would take a "rain check."

That scenario played out in December 2009, according to the indictment, and was allegedly the start of a four-year pattern of Virginia's first couple squeezing gifts and loans out of a benefactor who expected them to promote his company's products in return.

The indictment suggests the McDonnells cashed in that first rain check many times over: shopping sprees for designer clothes for Maureen McDonnell, a vacation stay at Williams' multimillion-dollar Smith Mountain Lake retreat, $70,000 in loans for a family real estate venture, $15,000 in catering expenses for a daughter's wedding, golf outings for the governor and family members.

The day after the Smith Mountain Lake vacation, which allegedly included use of Williams' Ferrari, Williams was in a meeting with the McDonnells and a senior state health official, pitching Star Scientific products and even suggesting that government employees could serve as a control group for research studies, according to the indictment.

Also that day, the indictment said, Maureen McDonnell persuaded Williams to buy a $6,500 Rolex watch that she presented to her husband as a gift with "71st Governor of Virginia" engraved on the back.

The government alleges there were other instances of the McDonnells using their influence to help Williams' company, including hosting an Executive Mansion reception for Star Scientific to launch it signature product with university researchers in attendance.

Twelve of the 14 counts in Tuesday's indictment are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, two by up to 30 years. Possible fines range from $250,000 to $1 million.

McDonnell has apologized and said he returned more than $120,000 in gifts and loans to Williams, but has insisted he did nothing illegal. He said Tuesday night that federal prosecutors stretched the law to make a case against him and his wife.

"I will use every available resource and advocate that I have for as long as it takes to fight and prevail against these false allegations and the unjust overreach of the federal government," McDonnell said at a news conference, where he read from a statement and took no questions.

"I repeat again emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal friendship and his generosity," said McDonnell. He described the federal investigation as "indescribably agonizing" and said that "the federal government's case rests entirely on a misguided legal theory."

Maureen McDonnell joined her husband at the news conference but did not speak. Her attorney, William Burck, said in a statement that the Department of Justice "has overreached to bring these charges."

Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman offered a different view.

"Today's charges represent the Justice Department's continued commitment to rooting out public corruption at all levels of government," she said in a news release. "Ensuring that elected officials uphold the public's trust is one of our most critical responsibilities."

McDonnell's lawyers filed a strongly worded motion Tuesday evening seeking instructions and recordings of any comments federal prosecutors made to the grand jury about the legal validity of the charges.

"To bring today's indictment, the federal government has concocted a never-before-used legal theory manufactured for the sole purpose of prosecuting Governor McDonnell and his wife," they wrote.

They called the governor's prosecution days after leaving office "disgraceful" and "contemptuous of the citizens of Virginia who elected him."

A bond hearing and arraignment is set for both defendants Friday in U.S. District Court in Richmond.

McDonnell left office earlier this month after four years in the governor's office. Virginia law limits governors to a single term.

The federal investigation overshadowed the final months in office for the once-rising star of the Republican Party. At one time, McDonnell had been considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney. McDonnell delivered the 2010 Republican response to the State of the Union Address, and became chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2011.

The 43-page indictment outlines several instances in which the McDonnells allegedly touted the legitimacy of Star Scientific's dietary supplement Anatabloc.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration informed Star Scientific that it has been unlawfully promoting Anatabloc as a drug by citing studies suggesting it can be used to treat multiple sclerosis and other diseases. The company has said it is working with the FDA to resolve that issue as well as an allegation that it marketed the products without required federal approval.

In a written statement Tuesday evening, Star Scientific attorney Abbe David Lowell said "it is a sad day when criminal charges are brought against any elected official," and the company will continue to cooperate with authorities in the McDonnell case.

Virginia Republican lawmakers were quick to express their support for McDonnell as well as their sadness and disappointment that charges were filed. House Speaker William J. Howell and other Republican House leaders issued a statement calling McDonnell their "good friend" and saying they were praying for the former governor and his family.

"We believe in the rule of law and are confident in the ability of our legal system to render the rightful judgment, whatever it may be," the statement said.

Meanwhile Democrats used the indictments to call for stricter ethics rules for lawmakers. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation this year in reaction to McDonnell's gift scandal that would place a $250 limit on gifts to lawmakers. And new Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed an executive order his first day in office prohibiting gifts to the governor, his family or staff of more than $100.

"This is a sad day for Virginia, but I remain optimistic that we can work together to reform our system in order to prevent episodes like this from occurring ever again," McAuliffe said in a statement.

The scandal unfolded last year around the same time as a separate politically embarrassing case involving a former Executive Mansion chef who was accused of embezzlement and, in turn, accused McDonnell's children of taking mansion food and supplies for personal use. The governor later reimbursed the state and the chef pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors.

The fallout seeped into the general election, with McDonnell playing a low-key role in support of Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who lost to McAuliffe. Asked why he hadn't been more visible, McDonnell replied, "That's a question for the candidate."

Tuesday's indictment against the McDonnells includes one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud; three counts of honest-services wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right; six counts of obtaining property under color of official right; and one count of making false statements to a federal credit union.

The former governor is also charged with an additional count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell is charged with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding.

---

Associated Press writers Steve Szkotak and Alan Suderman contributed to this report. Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker contributed from Washington.

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jsblackball January 23 2014 at 1:07 AM

well thats ower tax money spended good and the usa is broke they must look in there lottery also how they pay out winnings also why i say that is new york a person won a million took home 712000 befoer taxes i won a million took home 628000 who set these annuity thats 85000 difference i won that in va or maybe they gave it for her party hahahah

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abcstarfox 2013 January 23 2014 at 12:26 AM

Ah yes....politicians. It matters not what the crime...the
$$$$$$$$$$ amount or the party. They won't go to jail.

They will be required to repay a SMALL PORTION so it
looks good, on the surface, and then......they will walk. .

What's it called? Let me think a minute....oh yeah ...
they call it the political slap on the wrist.

This report is a waste of ink, and the court room/trial will be
a waste of time and tax payer money.

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Larry Stephenson January 23 2014 at 12:11 AM

They all seem to be Corrupt today maybe some blue collar workers could help get it back , as this Country has gone so far off course in the last 6 years or so that we may never recover , the National Debt is a joke , I cannot believe the way they toss millions and billions around like it was mere pennies that our grand kids and so on down the line will pay for , oh and are we still going to plant turnips on Mars?/ that one just about blew my mind !!

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DaveLtmn January 22 2014 at 11:38 PM

If Corzine did it he should be indicted too. This isnt a partisan issue, stop pointing and saying "he did it too"

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gruflash January 22 2014 at 10:24 PM

Now I've got to put my political asperations on hold knowing that I can't bribe the fat cats. LMFAO.

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mine January 22 2014 at 10:11 PM

Let's look at past politicians and big contributers to the democrat party. Corzine was the gov of NJ and then senator while being a past bigwig at Goldman Sachs that donated heavy to the DNP. He helped scam about $1.5 BILLION out of MF Global and he is still running free and no one right now cares about that. Why? He is a democrat.

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3 replies to mine's comment
sal January 22 2014 at 7:58 PM

indicted good now lets see if they are convicted these kinds of people never go to prison its all bull just a show for the American people

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benaroundsum January 22 2014 at 7:51 PM

If this were a Dem., Fox news would be all over it.

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1 reply to benaroundsum's comment
mine January 22 2014 at 10:07 PM

You mean like the past politician from New Jersey, Corzine? Look him up and how much he scammed out of MF Global and he is still walking free, because he is democrat.

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Bruce January 22 2014 at 7:24 PM

Another Republican with greed in his veins. Not too surprising, but it IS becoming TIRING! From where do they get these senses of entitlement? It's ridiculous...

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vigoddess January 22 2014 at 6:41 PM

It feels so good to know that justice prevails just when
it seemed that every body was getting away with
something illegal and the Governor known as
the Vagina invader of women's rights is now on
trial for invading self serving gifts for himself
and his wife. Rights work both ways and no
better way to find out that "absolute power
corrupts absolutely."

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1 reply to vigoddess's comment
abcstarfox 2013 January 23 2014 at 12:37 AM

...and the usual slap on the wrist is in progress.

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