On Monday, the McDonnell defense began.
There were some basic themes —
- Maureen McDonnell was crazy, the Mansion staff hated working with her, and they all wanted to quit.
- Bob McDonnell was a hell of a nice guy — a Boy Scout, in the words of one witness — and a hell of a good governor, but he had no peace at home.
- Bob wasn’t in charge of the MoBo Real Estate finances.
- Bob was at the mercy of his schedulers, and would never have had the time to have gotten into the organization of individual events at the Mansion.
- The Governor was wearing more than one hat — Governor, head of the Virginia GOP, husband, father.
- Various cabinet secretaries and government officials testified that Bob McDonnell never contacted them on behalf of Jonnie Williams or Star Scientific.
It doesn’t take a law degree to understand what the defense is —
- What Bob McDonnell does as a private citizen is not the subject of the US criminal law; only what he does as Governor is prosecutable.
- Maureen was out of Bob’s control (or anyone else’s), and whatever she may have been doing for Jonnie Williams, Bob wasn’t a part of it.
- When Maureen had that lunch for Anatabloc on August 30, 2011, she was doing her own thing. If Bob drops by to schmooze, that’s him as a private citizen, or him as head of the Virginia GOP, not him as Governor.
- Bob never actually did anything for Star Scientific in any official capacity.
- Bob can’t be guilty if he never did anything.
- Maureen can’t be guilty if Bob never did anything.
Now, strictly speaking, Maureen CAN be guilty of conspiring with Jonnie Williams to bribe her husband, because the essence of the crime of conspiracy is the agreement, not the actual results. But as a practical matter, it seems unlikely that the jury would convict her and not him on the bribery allegations.
Expect more of the same for another day or two, and then Bob McDonnell will testify. It is sometimes said that THE crucial moment of any criminal trial is when the defendant testifies. That will really be the case in this trial.