Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in front of a federal judge on Friday.
As we’ve reported, McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have been charged with 14 counts, including conspiracy and wire fraud over allegations they took gifts from the CEO of a pharmaceutical company and in exchange provided Star Scientific with the “prestige of the governorship.”
USA Today says the McDonnells were released on their own recognizance but were ordered not to leave the country. The paper adds:
“The former governor’s lawyer told Novak the defendants already have surrendered their passports.
“Clearly exasperated by months of news stories about the case based on anonymous sources, [U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak] sternly lectured lawyers from both sides not to discuss the case with the media. He warned that such conduct violates a local court rule and could result in contempt of court charges.
” ‘This case is going to be tried in the courtroom; it is not going to be tried in the media,’ Novak said. ‘The gamesmanship with the media ends now.’ ”
On that front, The Washington Post has a story that quotes “people with knowledge” saying the former governor rejected a plea deal that would have avoided charges for his wife. McDonnell, the paper reports, would have pleaded guilty to a felony fraud charge that “had nothing to do with corruption in office.”
The Post adds:
“The failed behind-the-scenes plea discussions underscore the former governor’s strong assertion that prosecutors have stretched the law to ensnare a high-level official through the actions of his wife. He has emphatically insisted that he did nothing illegal in his interactions with businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and made no agreements to assist his company, Star Scientific Inc.
“It also provides a vivid illustration of the extent to which both of the McDonnells believe that it was the former first lady’s poor judgment in establishing a friendship with Williams that has landed the couple in legal peril.”