The Washington Post
Local ⋅ Live Blog

Updates: Day 24 of the McDonnell corruption trial

August 28, 2014
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, center, answers reporters' questions as he leaves the federal courthouse on Wednesday in Richmond with his daughter, Rachel McDonnell, left. On the right is one of McDonnell's lawyers, Daniel Small. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, P. Kevin Morley)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, center, answers reporters’ questions as he leaves the federal courthouse on Wednesday in Richmond with his daughter, Rachel McDonnell, left. On the right is one of McDonnell’s lawyers, Daniel Small. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, P. Kevin Morley)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, are battling a 14-count public corruption indictment that alleges that they lent the prestige of the governor’s office to a Richmond area businessman and that, in exchange, the businessman lavished them with gifts and money.

 Interactive: McDonnell gifts list | Twitter: Latest | Previous days: The trial | Photos Indictment

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Jurors have been dismissed for the day. Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell have been told to reconvene at 3 p.m. to haggle over jury instructions.

With the long break in the action, we’re going to close down the McDonnell live blog for the day. Check back at after 3 p.m. to read about this afternoon’s lawyer’s conference with Judge James R. Spencer to discuss the guidance he will provide to jurors before they begin deliberations.

The live blog will be back promptly Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. and will be updated all day, as both sides deliver their closing arguments to the jury.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

At the end of testimony, defense attorneys again moved to have the McDonnells acquitted before the jury gets the case. U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer, predictably, turned them down.

Robert F. McDonnell defense attorney Ryan Newman made the same arguments his side has throughout the case: that the acts which the former governor is alleged to have performed for Jonnie R. Williams Sr. are not “official” and the crimes with which the former first couple are charged are unconstitutionally vague. On Thursday, he also raised a more technical argument: some of the charges against the McDonnells allege their misdeeds affected interstate commerce, and there is scant evidence of that.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Faulconer responded that the affect on interstate commerce “need only be slight,” and prosecutors need only prove that to be the intent of McDonnell’s helping Williams. Faulconer noted that Williams was flying all over the country to promote Anatabloc, and McDonnell, he alleged, was trying to help the businessman with that goal.

The process moving forward is a complicated one. Jurors were sent home for the day and told to return at 9:30 a.m. Friday for closing arguments. Spencer said he intends to finish all four of those — one from Bob and Maureen McDonnell’s attorneys bookended by presentations from prosecutors — on Friday. Spencer told jurors the presentations will likely be lengthy, though he did not give any indication if he will let them begin deliberating when the closings are done late on Friday.

And the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys still must hash out the instructions jurors will be given on the law. Spencer said he would give the parties copies of the instructions he wants to give within the next half hour, and he will entertain arguments at 3 p.m. The judge indicated that what he proposes is unlikely to change.

“If it’s in there, more than likely, I’m married to it,” Spencer said, “but again, I can be talked out of it.”

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

After concluding testimony from FBI Special Agent Kathryn Weber, prosecutors announced that they have rested their case against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

Jurors will now be dismissed for the remainder of the day while lawyers argue about the wording of instructions the jury will be issued by Judge James R. Spencer.

Attorneys will deliver their closing statements in the case on Friday.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

John Brownlee, a defense attorney for Robert F. McDonnell, is now poking holes in an FBI analysis that purported to show that Bob and Maureen McDonnell spent about 90 percent of their nights together during the 22 month period of the charged conspiracy.

On a half dozen occasions or more, Brownlee demonstrated that FBI Special Agent Kathryn Weber accounted for the governor as being in the mansion for the night with his wife when, in fact, he was scheduled to return from travel after 10 p.m. and, in some cases, nearly midnight.

On two of those nights, mansion logs show Maureen McDonnell was visited in the evening by businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., before her husband returned home.

Weber testified her methodology simply meant schedules showed the couple were located at the mansion overnight.

She also testified that the first lady’s schedule did not indicate where she spent the night when she was not traveling and so she, in fact, had no way to know nights Maureen McDonnell might have spent at the couple’s house in suburban Richmond.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

McDonnell defense attorney John Brownlee has begun poking holes in the testimony of FBI Special Agent Kathryn Weber, noting that charts she helped prepare and showed to jurors were not to scale — and potentially misleading.

Brownlee showed Weber two examples of such charts, which help present statistics about the time Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell spent together. The charts are important to helping prosecutors prove the couple conspired together, and that their marriage was not in the broken state that defense attorneys have suggested.

Weber acknowledged one of the charts was not to scale. The other, she said, was not intended to be scaled in any way.

Brownlee also wrested what might be an important concession from Weber. When she was compiling statistics about the time the McDonnells spent together, she weighed whether trips were “personal” or “business.” She listed one trip in particular, to Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod, as “personal.”

The distinction is important because McDonnell has claimed the trip was a personal one, while Jonnie R. Williams Sr. has claimed it was all business — just another example of him lavishing the governor with gifts for access and official help with his dietary supplement company.

Weber said she listed the trip as personal because that is how it showed up on the governor’s calendar. But Brownlee pressed the point.

“Not business?” he said, of how Weber had evaluated the trip.

“It did not say business,” Weber responded.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

On several occasions he and his sons went golfing at an exclusive club on Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s dime, Robert F. McDonnell did not list the outings on his schedule or calendar, an FBI agent testified Thursday.

The testimony from Kathryn Weber, an FBI agent who reviewed the former governor’s schedules and calendars, seems designed to show McDonnell intentionally hid the gifts from Williams. McDonnell has already admitted he did not report two 2011 golf outings funded by Williams as he should have on his state economic disclosure forms, but he has said the omissions were accidental.

McDonnell did list a May 2011 outing with his sons at the Kinloch Golf Club on his schedule, but he did not indicate it was paid for by Williams, Weber testified. When he went golfing on Aug. 13, 2011, the time spent on the course was reflected on his schedule as “Family Time – Executive Mansion.” The governor had nothing listed on his calendar at the time he played golf on Jan. 7, 2012, and “Family Time” again was listed during the time of a Nov. 23, 2012, outing, Weber testified.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

The prosecutors’ last witness appears to have been called to take square aim at the defense’s contention that Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell’s marriage was in shambles and that they could not have conspired together.

Special Agent Kathryn Weber has testified that she reviewed more than 3,000 pages of materials related to schedules that were maintained for the governor and first lady between April 11, 2011, and March 31, 2013 — the time frame covered by their joint indictment.

She also reviewed phone records, she said. (“We won’t look at any phone records,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber responded with a laugh, perhaps trying to regain some goodwill with jurors who might have felt annoyed at the two hours worth of laborious parsing of phone records they heard from prosecutors on Wednesday.)

Weber then presented charts to jurors showing what her review of the schedules showed about time spent by the first couple together. (Aber drew a laugh from the courtroom here, too, by asking “just for the court’s benefit, how many charts do you have here?” Weber answered “five.”)

Weber’s charts showed that of the 721 nights in the 22 months period, Bob and Maureen McDonnell’s schedules indicate they spent 644 nights together, more than 90 percent. Of those, they spent 489 together at the mansion. Bob McDonnell was traveling out of the mansion for 220 nights, but even of those, the couple were together for 155, about 70 percent.

The prosecutors’ goal is to dispute the idea that McDonnell was constantly on the road and never had time for his wife or his family. In fact, Weber said that of McDonnell’s 220 travel nights, 62 were nights devoted solely to family trips or personal vacations. His staff also scheduled 100 separate events over 22 months that were classified exclusively as being devoted to “family time.”

And, even apart from nights spent together, the couple’s schedules show 41 events devoted for the two of them to spend time alone together, with no children or friends joining them.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Prosecutors’ final witness — barring a last-minute surprise — is an FBI agent who will be talking about Robert F. McDonnell’s schedules.

The agent, Kathryn Weber, took the stand just after 10 a.m. Thursday despite a written request from defense attorneys that her testimony be blocked as “needlessly cumulative and a waste of time.”

Weber has not said much yet, except that she has not watched the trial and only reviewed some of McDonnell’s testimony in preparation for her testimony. She said she was a case agent assigned to the investigation and reviewed the governor’s daily schedules.

In their filing resisting her testimony, defense attorneys said prosecutors want to use Weber to show McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, “were physically proximate to one another at times relevant to the Indictment.” They would want to do that to help prove the McDonnells conspired together and to bat down the defense’s assertion that the first couple’s marriage was so broken it could not support such a conspiracy.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

The final witness in the McDonnell trial is expected to testify Thursday morning. After that, jurors will have heard all the actual evidence that they will be allowed to consider when they weigh the fate of the former Virginia governor and his wife.

It seems likely, though it is not certain, that prosecutors will call some kind of summary witness to put the finishing touches on their rebuttal case, which began after defense attorneys formally rested Wednesday. Defense attorneys have filed a motion to block such a witness from testifying, but as of early Thursday morning, U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer had yet to rule on their request in writing — perhaps an indication it is not being granted.

Spencer told jurors Wednesday he expected them to hear closing arguments Friday. Thursday afternoon, the judge said, would be devoted to legal wrangling between prosecutors and defense attorneys over how jurors will be instructed on the law. The process is an important one. What the judge tells the jurors about the law will undoubtedly play an important role in determining whether they convict or acquit Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell.

While the parties are expected to begin closing arguments Friday, it seems unlikely that jurors will be able to reach a verdict before the upcoming holiday weekend. The jurors will hear four closing arguments — one each from attorneys for Bob and Maureen McDonnell, bookended by presentations from prosecutors. None of them are expected to be especially brief.

The beginning of the end starts at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.

  • Tim Richardson
  • ·

The defense rested Wednesday in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, with a final and especially poignant look at the couple’s marital troubles, strife that has formed a core of their joint defense.

Read the full story here and see yesterday’s liveblog.

Related: At the McDonnell trial, sidewalk visuals drive home the same point as testimony

Load More
No More Posts
Most Read
The story must be told.
Subscribe to The Washington Post