U.S. District Judge James Spencer in Richmond, Virginia, ruled today that U.S. prosecutors sufficiently supported their charges in the McDonnells’ indictment and that the case against them, scheduled for trial in July, should move ahead. Spencer also rejected the couple’s request that their cases be separated.
The McDonnells are accused of accepting vacations, loans, private plane rides and other benefits in exchange for using the governor’s office to benefit businessman Jonnie Williams, who at the time headed Star Scientific Inc. (STSI) and was trying to promote the dietary supplements made by the Glen Allen, Virginia-based company.
Before the gifts scandal emerged in the Virginia and Washington media, McDonnell, 59, was often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2016, attractive in part because of Virginia’s swing-state status. His name also appeared on analysts’ short-lists as a running-mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.
In seeking dismissal of the bulk of the case, the McDonnells argued that Robert McDonnell didn’t perform any official acts on Williams’s behalf, conduct that’s required to sustain the charges against them.
“Whether defendants’ conduct in fact constituted ‘the corruption of official positions through misuse of influence in governmental decision-making’ is a question for the jury,” Spencer said in his order declining to dismiss the case.
The case is U.S. v. McDonnell, 14-cr-00012, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).
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