By David Ingram and Gary Robertson
Jan 21 Former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell
and his wife were indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury
and charged with accepting bribes in the form of money and gifts
from the chief executive of a dietary supplements maker.
An indictment with 14 counts was filed in U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against McDonnell,
who is only 10 days out of office, and his wife, Maureen. Court
appearances for the couple were set for Friday in Richmond.
They accepted gifts from the head of supplements-maker Star
Scientific Inc including cash, golf fees and clothing
and in exchange arranged for company executives to meet
government officials who could help their business, the
The McDonnells, both 59 years old, believe they have done
nothing illegal and plan to fight the charges in court, they
said in separate statements through their lawyers.
"We did not violate the law, and I will use every available
resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight
these false allegations," Robert McDonnell said in his
If convicted, the McDonnells could face decades in prison
and fines totaling well over $1 million.
McDonnell, a Republican, said in July he had repaid $120,000
in loans from Jonnie Williams, a major campaign donor and
the founder of Star Scientific. He also apologized for the
embarrassment the gifts and loans to him and his family had
Williams resigned as Star Scientific chief executive in
McDonnell had acknowledged that he and his family received
more than $160,000 in gifts and loans from Williams. The gifts
from Williams ranged from a $6,500 Rolex watch for McDonnell, to
wedding and engagement presents and money for his daughters, and
a $15,000 shopping spree for first lady Maureen McDonnell.
Attorney Abbe David Lowell, who represents Star Scientific,
said the company is cooperating with authorities.
The relationship started with McDonnell's staff asking
Williams if McDonnell could use his jet aircraft during the 2009
gubernatorial campaign, said prosecutors, who referred to
Williams only as JW.
But after McDonnell won the election, the relationship grew,
according to the indictment.
Maureen McDonnell tried to have Williams pay for an Oscar de
la Renta dress she could wear to the inauguration, and clashed
with McDonnell's staff who dissuaded her from accepting the
In an email, Maureen wrote to McDonnell aides: "I need to
talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget. I need answers and
Bob is screaming about the thousands I'm charging up in credit
"We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card
debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!!" Maureen
McDonnell wrote, according to the indictment.
While she was forced to decline that offer, prosecutors said
she soon asked again for help in shopping for designer clothes.
In April 2011, Williams took Maureen to Oscar de la Renta,
Louis Vuitton and Bergdorf Goodman in New York, racking up
nearly $20,000 in bills shopping for her daughter's wedding and
other parties, prosecutors said.
Williams later provided many other favors, including a
$50,000 loan, a $15,000 "gift" to cover wedding expenses, and
the Rolex watch engraved with "71st Governor of Virginia" on the
back, they said.
In exchange, the Justice Department said, McDonnell
introduced the company to Virginia health officials and promoted
Star's products including to Virginia universities which it
suggested conduct related studies.
NEW GIFT LIMIT
Current Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, issued a statement
saying he was troubled by the charges and "the message that this
period in our history sends about how government in this
Commonwealth is run."
On the day he was inaugurated as governor, Jan. 11,
McAuliffe issued an executive order imposing a $100 limit on any
gifts that he, his family or members of his administration may
The order also provides for an ethics commission to enforce
the new standards on members of the executive branch, and to
answer questions from employees.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the
University of Virginia, suggested that the disclosures in the
indictment set a new standard for misbehavior.
"I'm not going to say the state hasn't had corrupt
officials, but they have been relatively few - and none at the
level of Governor and First Lady," Sabato said.
"It's a real shock to those of us who have lived in the
state all our lives and know the culture," he said.