Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell, wife plead not guilty; judges war - FOX 35 News Orlando

Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell, wife plead not guilty; judges warn lawyers about media

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Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, have formally pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges. Two different judges sternly warned attorneys connected with the case against leaking information to the media.

The McDonnells held hands as they approached the first courtroom in which they appeared. Both are charged in a lengthy federal indictment accusing the family of taking gifts and money in exchange for helping a Virginia businessman. The McDonnells have vehemently denied the charges.

Friday’s Washington Post says Bob McDonnell has turned down a proposed deal in which he would plead guilty to only one count; as part of the deal, Maureen McDonnell would not be charged. The article, quoting “people familiar with [legal conversations],” also says Maureen McDonnell had earlier asked that the case not involve her husband. Prosecutors said “no,” according to the newspaper.

“The gamesmanship with the media ends now,” thundered U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak at a packed initial appearance.

Novak made lead attorneys for the government and for the defense individually promise to refrain from leaking information. Novak warned the lawyers that federal court rules have been used in the past against an attorney who did talk to reporters. The judge said that attorney went to jail and was subsequently disbarred.

At an arraignment hearing in the same courthouse, U.S. District Judge James Spencer said, “This will not be a trial by press conference or by press release.” Spencer also warned attorneys to avoid “hyperbole” in their written filings.

At the arraignment, in response to the judge’s questions, Maureen McDonnell admitted she is taking some prescription drugs “for concentration and anxiety.”

If convicted on all counts, both McDonnells could face decades in prison, although as first-time offenders, the likelihood of a long sentence would be small.

Judge Spencer said the trial would begin on July 28. Based on what attorneys said in court, the trial could last three to four weeks.

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