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Hearing set in former Virginia governor’s federal corruption case

A federal magistrate judge will hear arguments in person as to whether former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife can talk to their family members and close friends while the federal corruption case against them moves through court.

A hearing on the matter has been set for 10 a.m. Monday in front of Magistrate Judge David J. Novak in Richmond, court records show.

Defense attorneys filed paperwork in recent days asking Novak to relax his requirement that McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, “have no contact with any witnesses or representatives of the government,” because they say it could preclude the couple from talking even to their own family members. The attorneys want the McDonnells to be able to talk about the case with their families and appeal personally to close friends to serve as character witnesses.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that they do not mind if the couple talks to their family members — but not about the case. And they have said close friends and business associates who could be witnesses should be off-limits.

The McDonnells were charged last week in a 14-count indictment that alleges that they repeatedly asked a wealthy Richmond businessman for loans and gifts of money, clothes, golf fees and equipment, trips and private plane rides. In exchange, the McDonnells allegedly worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governor’s office to the businessman’s struggling company.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a trial is scheduled for July 28.

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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