The former governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, and his wife were indicted today in a Virginia federal court on charges they illegally accepted gifts, loans and other payments.
In the 14-count indictment, federal prosecutors charged the McDonnells with accepting gifts from Jonnie Williams Sr., the chief executive officer of Star Scientific Inc. in exchange for promoting the dietary supplement company. McDonnell, in a statement provided by one of his lawyers, said he planned to fight the allegations.
“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility,” McDonnell said. “However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.”
McDonnell and his wife are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 24.
The acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente, said in a statement that his office would continue to work with other agencies “to investigate and prosecute public corruption.”
McDonnell, who completed his term as governor earlier this month, is represented by John Brownlee of Holland & Knight and Henry “Hank” Asbill of Jones Day. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, is represented by William Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Burck said in a statement his client was innocent.
“The Department of Justice has overreached to bring these charges,” Burck said. “Thankfully, however, the Department is not the sole arbiter in our justice system, which ultimately is not ruled by the unfounded suspicions of prosecutors but rather the law and the facts as decided by the judge and the jury.”
Asbill, a partner at Jones Day, has a national white-collar defense practice. Brownlee, the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, is chairman of Holland & Knight’s white-collar defense and investigations practice and a member of the firm’s directors committee. Burck is the co-leader of Quinn’s Washington office and chairman of the firm’s D.C. white-collar and corporate investigations practice.
The indictments came just over a month after lawyers for the McDonnells met with prosecutors concerning the investigation. The Washington Post reported the couple’s lawyers argued the McDonnells did not act improperly, but asked that if prosecutors were going to bring charges, they wait until after McDonnell left office.
A person familiar with the investigation confirmed to Legal Times at the time that the McDonnells’ lawyers met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole along with members of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The 43-page indictment detailed a series of instances from April 2011 to March 2013 in which the McDonnells allegedly requested and received more than $135,000 in payments through loans and gifts, as well as trips and other items from Williams. The gifts included designer clothes, golf outings and a Rolex watch engraved on the back with “71st Governor of Virginia.”
Prosecutors also accused the McDonnells of taking steps to cover up the scheme.
The case is before U.S. District Judge James Spencer in Richmond, Va.
Updated at 5:13 p.m.