A prosecutor told a federal jury Friday that former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell "stomped on the Virginia flag by selling out his office."
Justice Department lawyer David Harbach said McDonnell should not be allowed "to stand on the coattails of Thomas Jefferson or Patrick Henry, the commonwealth's first two governors."
"This is not how governors behave," he said.
Prosecutors accuse McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, of accepting more than $177,000 in gifts and loans from a Virginia businessman, Jonnie Williams, who wanted state help to promote a nutritional supplement, Anatabloc, made from tobacco,
Addressing the jury for more than two hours, Harbach said the McDonnells were "hurting financially" when they moved into the Governor's Mansion in January 2010, with more than $75,000 in credit card debt. That made them especially receptive, Harbach said, to entreaties from Williams.
Gifts included $19,289 worth of designer clothes bought for Maureen McDonnell at high-end New York stores, a $6,500 Rolex watch and use of a private country club and vacation home. Prosecutors say Williams also lent the couple $120,000 and gave them a check for $15,000 to help cover the cost of catering at their daughter's wedding.
In return, Harbach said, the first couple hosted a launch event for Anatabloc at the Governor's Mansion, promoted the product at over events and encouraged state officials to support it.
"Bob McDonnell was on the Jonnie Williams gravy train," Harbach said. He characterized the relationship with the governor as "do what you can when opportunities arise, and I'll pay you for it."
In McDonnell's defense, his lawyer, Henry Asbill, invoked the Latin phrase quid pro quo, which means that something is given in return for something else. He said it's the essence of bribery but called the case against the former governor "all quid, no pro and no quo."
Williams gave gifts to the couple, he said, but he never asked for anything in return, and they never promised him anything.
Asbill suggested prosecutors' real target was Virginia's law allowing unlimited gifts and contributions to candidates and office holders, as long as they are disclosed.
"They want to make it a referendum on my client's morality and how Virginia chooses to police its own political system," he said.
Maureen McDonnell's defense lawyer, William Burck, said she wanted to help Williams because she genuinely believed in his product and had strong feelings for him.
"The evidence shows that she was gaga for Jonnie."
What's more, Burck said, her marriage to the governor was strained, and they were not communicating closely. "These are not two people who are in a conspiracy," he said.
When her lawyer finished, the former first lady cried and hugged her children, who were seated near the front of the courtroom.
Judge James Spencer will give the jury instructions on the law Tuesday morning, and deliberations will then begin.
First published August 29 2014, 11:35 AM