Judge won’t entertain brief from former Va. attorneys general in McDonnell case

A federal judge on Monday rejected a request by five former Virginia attorneys general to formally lend their support to former governor Robert F. McDonnell as he tries to have the federal corruption charges he is facing thrown out of court.

U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer rejected the request by the lawyers to file a brief in support of McDonnell’s motion to dismiss the corruption charges, writing as his only explanation: “The Court declines to exercise its discretion to allow amicus curiae briefs to be filed in this criminal matter.”

The former attorneys general — both Republicans and Democrats spanning three decades in office — had largely echoed McDonnell’s own motion to dismiss the corruption charges, arguing that nothing he did for Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. constitutes an “official” act.

Prosecutors must prove that point to substantiate the corruption charges.

The result was largely expected: Spencer had last week rejected a similar request by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. And it will likely have minimal impact, if any at all, on the case against McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen.

The McDonnells were charged in January in a 14-count indictment that alleged they lent the prestige of the governor’s office to Williams and a struggling dietary supplement company he used to run, Star Scientific, in exchange for loans and gifts. They have pleaded not guilty, and a jury trial is scheduled for July 28.

Prosecutors have alleged that in exchange for the loans and gifts, the couple hosted a product launch for Star’s dietary supplement, Anatabloc; promoted the supplement at public events; arranged meetings between Williams and senior state health officials; and encouraged state researchers to consider conducting trials of the product.

Federal prosecutors have not responded to the McDonnells’ motion to throw out the corruption charges against them, and Spencer has not yet ruled on it.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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