Charges Against Va. Gov. McDonnell Delayed

Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 09:18 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Federal prosecutors have delayed filing felony charges against Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife over a gift scandal after their legal teams made a face-to-face appeal, The Washington Post reports.

Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told McDonnell's attorneys that he planned to ask a grand jury to return an indictment no later than this past Monday, according to the Post. But after attorneys met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Dec. 12, they were told that the decision to press charges would be put on hold. It is now not expected before Jan. 2.

The attorneys had been pressing Justice Department officials to reconsider or delay — at least long enough for McDonnell to complete his four-year term.

The Republican, who is leaving office on Jan. 11 and will be replaced by Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, has been under fire for the last nine months after it emerged that he and his wife, Maureen, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams, CEO of Star Scientific, Inc.

Federal authorities have been investigating whether the McDonnells accepted the gifts in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement for the company.

Williams reportedly paid $15,000 for food served at the 2011 wedding of one of McDonnell's daughters. The governor also disclosed $9,650 in personal gifts that include private plane rides and a vacation at Williams' summer lake house, at the end of which they borrowed a Ferrari for a three-hour drive back to Richmond.

In addition, between 2011 and 2012, Williams loaned $120,000 to McDonnell’s wife and to a real-estate business owned by the governor and his sister.

According to Virginia law, elected officials can accept gifts of any value, but must disclose those worth more than $50. The loans, along with some of the gifts, were not originally listed on McDonnell’s financial disclosure reports.

McDonnell, meanwhile, allowed the company to use the governor’s mansion for a 2011 lunch, paid for by the governor’s political action fund, to launch a dietary supplement called Anatabloc. Maureen McDonnell flew to Florida that year to promote the product at a gathering of doctors and investors.

In July, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell said he and his wife returned more than $120,000 in loans from Williams and apologized for the episode, but he has continued to insist he has done nothing illegal.

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