Governor McDonnell lawyers meet with prosecutors
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) -- There's a new, critical phase in the gifts scandal involving Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife. The McDonnells' attorneys will try to convince prosecutors that the first couple should not be charged.
Authorities have been investigating whether the two acted improperly in their dealings with the company, Star Scientific. The governor is accused of agreeing to aid the company, while accepting hundreds of thousands in gifts and money from its chief executive.
McDonnell's attorney John Brownlee declined to comment to journalists Monday afternoon after talks were completed at about 1:15 p.m., only replying, “No, but thank you,” when asked if he had any comments.
The governor's family accepted more than $145,000 in business and personal loans and gifts from Star Scientific and CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. since he donated more than $100,000 to McDonnell's gubernatorial campaign and political action committee in 2009.
The FBI and state investigators are trying to determine whether the authority of the governor's office was illegally used to benefit the company.
McDonnell announced last month that he and his family had repaid a $70,000 business loan that Williams made to a real estate business owned by the governor and his sister, and a $50,000 personal loan that Williams made to Maureen McDonnell.
The governor also announced that gifts Williams gave to the first family, including a $6,500 Rolex watch inscribed to "the 71st Governor of Virginia" and checks of $10,000 and $15,000 to two of the family's daughters before their weddings, had been returned.
But the Washington Post is now reporting additional gifts, like golf clubs for the McDonnell’s twin sons and an iPhone for McDonnell's wife.
And because of these additional gifts, political science professor Stephen Farnsworth says prosecutors may use McDonnell as an example:
"Whether or not the governor's behavior was illegal is a question for the lawyers. But for ordinary citizens in Virginia, what they've seen is a very tawdry story."
Farnsworth continues: "One of the key factors is not necessarily punishing this particular individual, but also sending a message to other elected officials about what kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated."
And the Virginians we spoke with have clearly had enough.
"It's embarrassing that we, as a state, can't get our act together," said Alexandria resident Kristen Fannon.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.