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 indictment alleges.
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 statement.
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 caused Virginia.
Williams resigned as Star Scientific chief executive in December.
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 dress.
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 card debt."
"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.
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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,
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
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, January 11, McAuliffe
issued an executive order imposing a $100 limit on any gifts that
he, his family or members of his administration may receive.
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.
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and Aruna
Viswanatha; editing by Howard Goller, Bernard Orr)
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