Defense seeks acquittal in corruption trial of Va. governor, wife

RICHMOND, Va. Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:38am EDT

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RICHMOND, Va. Aug 15 (Reuters) - Defense lawyers for former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have moved that the couple be acquitted in their federal corruption and bribery case.

The defense motions, which were filed late on Thursday and Friday in U.S. District Court, came after prosecutors wrapped up their case against McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife after almost three weeks of testimony.

They face a 14-count indictment alleging they accepted more than $165,000 in loans and gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement company Star Scientific Inc and its main product, Anatabloc.

Lawyers for McDonnell argued that prosecutors have failed to show that he carried out or promised to carry out any official act for Williams.

"The most that the government can show, granting it the benefit of all reasonable inferences, is that Mr. McDonnell facilitated Mr. Williams' access to certain government decision-makers so that Mr. Williams could attempt to persuade them to his cause," the motion said.

The former governor's lawyers also said the government had failed to prove that McDonnell made a false statement on a TowneBank loan application by not disclosing a loan from Williams on a personal financial statement.

Prosecutors had not shown that Williams made a personal loan to McDonnell, defense lawyers said. Instead, Williams had extended the loan to Maureen McDonnell and a real estate company run by the governor and his sister.

Maureen McDonnell's lawyers said in separate filings that the governor had not carried out any official acts for Williams and the former first lady cannot be guilty as a private citizen.

They also argued that prosecutors failed to show she made a false statement on a loan application to Pentagon Federal Credit Union or tried to obstruct a grand jury proceeding.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer was expected to rule on the motions on Friday as the jury took a day off. If Spencer turns down the motions, lawyers for the McDonnells likely will begin presenting witnesses on Monday.

Lawyers for the McDonnells have contended that the couple could not have been conspiring with Williams because their marriage was crumbling and they were not on speaking terms.

McDonnell's four-year term ended in January. If the McDonnells are convicted, each could face a prison sentence of 20 years and hefty fines. (Editing by Ian Simpson and Bill Trott)

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