Jury Begins Deliberations in Corruption Trial of Va. Ex-Governor, Wife

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia bureau chief Julie Carey reports on final instructions given to the jury at the McDonnell corruption trial.

    After deliberating for more than 5 hours, a federal jury will reconvene Wednesday morning in the public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

    U.S. District Judge James Spencer spent nearly two hours Tuesday morning reading his instructions to the jury, which consists of seven men and five women. The jury got the case around noon, and they adjourned after 5 hours of deliberations. 

    The McDonnells are accused of doing special favors for Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.

    The five-week trial has featured the testimony of both the former governor and Williams, the prosecution's star witness, who testified under immunity that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells only to secure their help promoting and obtaining state-backed research for Star's tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory, Anatabloc.

    Bob McDonnell testified he did nothing other than extend routine political courtesies to Williams. Maureen McDonnell did not take the stand.

    Judge Spencer told the jury Tuesday morning that the testimony of a witness who is granted immunity must be more closely examined than testimony of other witnesses. The heightened scrutiny is required to determine whether the testimony of the immunized witness is "affected by self-interest," he said.

    The judge also walked the jury through the charges, including "honest services fraud" and conspiracy to commit such an offense.

    "A conspiracy is, in a very true sense, a partnership in crime," Spencer said.

    To be found guilty, he said, a defendant must understand the nature of the conspiracy and deliberately join it.

    However, he said a conspiracy does not have to achieve its goals -- an instruction that could undercut a defense claim that Williams never received anything of substance, including the research he took preliminary steps to seek.

    He also said a corrupt agreement need not be stated explicitly by the conspirators and that it doesn't matter whether the defendant would have done favors absent a bribe.

    Spencer also told jurors -- who heard from three character witnesses, two for Bob McDonnell and one for his wife -- that "evidence of good character alone may create a reasonable doubt as to a defendant's guilt."

    Williams' immunity deal bars his prosecution not only for his dealings with the McDonnells, but also for possible securities fraud violations that were investigated by a separate grand jury.

    McDonnell's attorney, Henry Asbill, said in closing arguments Friday that the unusually generous immunity deal was Williams' "greatest con."

    Prosecutor Michael Dry countered that because of the agreement, Williams had no reason to lie on the witness stand.

    Defense attorneys have suggested that Bob and Maureen McDonnell could not have conspired to provide special favors to Williams because their marriage was crumbling and they were barely talking.

    Several shocking relavations have been made during the trial, including Bob McDonnell's testimony about his living situation. A week before the couple's trial began, the former governor moved into the rectory of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Richmond, because he felt he couldn't go home to his wife after each day in court.

    "I knew that there was no way I could go home after a day in court... and revisit things every night with Maureen,'' the former governor said. He also testified that his marriage was "basically on hold.''

    Both of the McDonnells face one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, three counts of honest-services wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, and six counts of obtaining property under color of official right. Bob McDonnell also faces two counts of making false statements, while Maureen faces one count of making false statements and one count of obstruction of official proceeding.

    They could face decades in prison if convicted.