McDonnell Faces Arraignment Friday After Rejecting Fed Plea Deal

Image: McDonnell Faces Arraignment Friday After Rejecting Fed Plea Deal

Friday, 24 Jan 2014 10:20 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who with his wife has been charged with 14 federal counts of felony fraud and conspiracy, rejected an offer to plead guilty to a single charge, The Washington Post reports.

A plea deal would have spared his wife from being charged and kept embarrassing details of the couple’s alleged acts of conspicuous consumption from becoming public, the Post noted in a report Thursday.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning before a federal judge in Richmond, Va., where the indictment against them will be read and they will be asked to enter a plea.

The couple is accused of accepting more than $165,000 in luxury gifts and loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in return for using the governor's office to promote his dietary supplement business.

According to the Post, McDonnell’s rejection of the plea offer keeps with his position that he cannot be held legally responsible for the actions of his wife and that his actions did not break any Virginia gift ban laws.

The plea bargain offer called for the former governor to admit to one count of fraud for failing to disclose loans from Williams on an application to refinance the couple’s hefty mortgages. The deal included no mention of corruption while he was in office from 2010 to 2014, the Post noted.

The McDonnells' relationship with Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement manufacturer Star Scientific, is at the center of the charges against them. They are accused of seeking and accepting gifts from Williams during McDonnell's time in office in return for promoting or helping to influence investment in his former company, which the Post noted has been renamed Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals since Williams left.

By rejecting the plea deal, McDonnell and his wife face the prospect of lengthy prison terms and a costly, scandalous trial where the government will offer evidence that Virginia’s former first couple traded on the governor’s position in exchange for lavish gifts and cash loans.

In April 2011, Williams took Maureen McDonnell on a shopping spree in New York City, purportedly to outfit her for her daughter’s upcoming wedding as well as an anniversary party, according to the federal indictment cited by the Post.

Williams shelled out thousands of dollars at high-end stores, such as Louis Vuitton, where Maureen McDonnell came away with shoes, a purse, a wallet, and a raincoat. Williams also allegedly treated her to clothing, jewelry, and accessories from Oscar de La Renta and Bergdorf Goodman.

According to the indictment, she later asked Williams for a $50,000 loan after confiding that the couple was struggling to pay for the wedding of their daughter. Williams made the loan with the caveat that “loan paperwork was not necessary,” and paid the caterer $15,000, The New York Times also reports.

The June 2011 nuptials took place at the governor’s mansion.

Maureen McDonnell also requested a Rolex watch for her husband, inscribed with “71st Governor of Virginia” and use of Williams’ vacation home and Ferrari.

According to The Times, Williams sought to use the McDonnells to impress investors of his publicly-traded company, and to “enlist the governor’s support in winning state-funded research on his product.”

In addition to the designer apparel, the McDonnells could also be forced to forfeit to the government iphones, golf equipment, and art work purchased by Williams.

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