It’s okay for former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife to talk with their family, right? That’s what their attorneys in a federal corruption case asked a judge to clarify in court filings Tuesday.
The filings — the latest in a string of actions that suggest that McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, plan to litigate the case aggressively — assert that a magistrate judge’s order that the couple “have no contact with any witnesses or representatives of the government” could apply to relatives and close friends.
“Because many of Mr. McDonnell’s family members and close friends are potentially involved in this case, they are all potential witnesses,” the motion says. “And read literally, the Magistrate’s Order could be interpreted as prohibiting Mr. McDonnell from having any contact with his children, his sisters, his oldest friends, and people who have worked for and with him for years.”
The McDonnells were charged last week in a 14-count indictment growing out of their relationship with a wealthy Richmond businessman, a relationship first described by The Washington Post in March.
Authorities allege that over nearly two years, the McDonnells repeatedly asked Jonnie R. Williams Sr. for loans and gifts of money, clothes, golf fees and equipment, trips and private plane rides. The gifts and loans totaled at least $165,000.
In exchange, the McDonnells allegedly worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governor’s office to Williams’s struggling company, Star Scientific, a former small cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.
The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a jury trial is scheduled for July 28. Barely a week in, their attorneys have filed a series of motions challenging various aspects of the prosecution’s case.
Defense attorneys write in the latest motion that they want the court to clarify Magistrate Judge David J. Novak’s routine order so that it does not apply to relatives, close friends and long-standing business associates just because they “might be defense witnesses in the case.” They contend that the order should apply only to witnesses specifically identified by prosecutors.
The motion says prosecutors do not object to the request, as long as McDonnell “does not obstruct justice.” As of Tuesday afternoon, a judge had not ruled on the motion.
Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.