Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are facing federal criminal corruption charges for accepting massive bribes and kickbacks from a campaign contributor and they are offering a very unusual defense: They couldn’t have been in cahoots on this because their marriage was falling apart — and she was crushing on the guy giving all the money and gifts.
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife on Tuesday unveiled an unorthodox defense to the federal corruption charges against them: Maureen McDonnell had a “crush” on the charismatic executive who lavished gifts and cash on the couple.
Maureen McDonnell’s intense — even romantic — interest in Jonnie R. Williams Sr. helps explain why she let him pay for expensive shopping trips and vacations for her and her family while she promoted a nutritional supplement he was trying to sell, defense attorneys said during opening statements. She was not hatching a scheme with her husband to get rich by abusing the prestige of the governor’s office; rather, she was a woman in a broken marriage who craved attention.
“Jonnie Williams was larger than life to Maureen McDonnell,” said William Burck, Maureen McDonnell’s lead defense attorney. “But unlike the other man in her life, Jonnie Williams paid attention to Maureen McDonnell.”
And the governor, his defense attorneys said, was an honest public servant who promised Williams nothing of consequence. They said he would take the witness stand to proclaim his innocence even if that required him to lay bare his family’s troubles and discuss his wife’s dealings with another man.
“Bob McDonnell is an innocent man,” said John Brownlee, one of his lead defense attorneys. He said that his client had intended only to promote a Virginia company and that the great lengths prosecutors had gone to prove otherwise — including flying to California to interview former presidential candidate Mitt Romney — had been unsuccessful.
“Bob McDonnell eats Virginia ham. He drinks Virginia wine. And my guess is, if the man smoked, he’d smoke Virginia cigarettes,” Brownlee said.
Which has precisely nothing to do with whether he’s guilty or not. I don’t think this is likely to be a successful defense strategy.