By James Galloway
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — A trial date has been set for former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen for July 28, following a Friday arraignment at a Richmond federal courthouse. Both pleaded not guilty to all 14 charges.
Federal authorities say the McDonnells repeatedly asked Johnnie Williams, a Richmond area businessman, for loans and gifts totaling more than $165,000. The 43-page indictment alleges the McDonnells asked for money, clothes, golf fees, equipment, numerous trips and private jet rides in exchange for access to political clout.
Prosecutors allege that McDonnell helped promote Anatabloc, the company’s new product. The indictment states McDonnell pitched Anatabloc during an official meeting March 2012 with the secretary of administration in which they would discuss the state employee health plan.
“(Robert McDonnell) pulled some Anatabloc out of his pocket,” the indictment states, “and told the secretary of administration and one of her staff members that Anatabloc had beneficial health effects, that he personally took Anatabloc and that it was working well for him.”
The indictment states Maureen McDonnell traveled with Star Scientific in October 2011, speaking favorably of the product at corporate functions.
The report states that under Virginia. law, certain state officials and employees – including the governor and members of his staff – are required to annually file a standardized disclosure statement of their personal economic interests on or before Jan. 15 each year.
The indictment describes specific charges against Maureen, stating she intentionally avoided annual reporting requirements by transferring a total of 5,000 Star Scientific shares into newly opened brokerage accounts in the names of her five children.
“(Maureen McDonnell) further informed the broker that these transfers had to occur before year-end in order to avoid reporting requirements related to the ownership of Star Scientific stock,” the report states.
Federal documents state Williams took Maureen on an April 2011 shopping spree in New York City, in exchange for a seat beside McDonnell at a political event. The document states Williams spent about $10,999 at Oscar de la Renta, $5,685 at Louis Vuitton and $2,604 at Bergdorf Goodman, and later sat next to the governor.
According to the indictment, Williams sought independent studies in July 2011 to lend credibility to Star Scientific’s new product, Anatabloc. But when he approached the Tobacco Commission – a state research institution – it refused to fund the research as requested by a for-profit entity.
Among the gifts listed in the indictment was a custom Rolex watch inscribed with the words “71st Governor of Virginia.” Maureen McDonnell met privately with Williams to discuss ways the state could research Star Scientific’s Anatabloc. The indictment alleges Maureen complimented Williams’ watch, and asked him to purchase a similar watch she could give to her husband. Williams purchased the watch. On the same day Williams asked what she wanted inscribed on the watch, Maureen scheduled herself to attend an August 30 luncheon with state researchers.
Text messages from 2012 between Bob McDonnell and Williams appear throughout the document, discussing share prices of Star Scientific.
“Good announcements lately,” McDonnell told Williams in a text, according to prosecutors. “Stock looks good. Hope all is well. You and (Williams’ wife) enjoy the 4th of July.”
In a text message sent to McDonnell, Williams reassured McDonnell that Star Scientific shares were continuing in a favorable trend.
McDonnell denied helping Williams in a public address this past week, and said he has done nothing illegal; adding that his behavior is characteristic of many elected officials in his position.
“I will use every available resource and advocate that I have,” McDonnell said, “for as long as it takes to fight and prevail against these false allegations and the unjust overreach of the federal government.”
Judge David Novak said Friday the McDonnell case will be tried in the courtroom and will not be tried in the media.
“The gamesmanship with the media ends now,” Novak said.