Tuesday, January 21, 2014

McDonnell: burn him down, too

Today, the Feds officially filed an indictment against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen McDonnell. The charges, as laid out in the document (filed in the U.D. District Court for Eastern Virginia):
  • 1 count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud 
  • 3 Counts of Honest-services Wire Fraud 
  • 1 Count of Conspiracy to Obtain Property Under Color of Official Right 
  • 6 Counts of Obtaining Property Under Color of Official Right 
  • 1 Count of Making False Statements to a Federal Credit Union
The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the details. Basically, the bulk of the charges stem from interactions between McDonnell (and his wife) and former CEO of Star Scientific Jonnie Williams, Sr. According to the document, the McDonnells improperly accepted all kinds of gifts, monetary and otherwise, from Williams in exchange for help promoting his company.

Star Scientific is "a technology-oriented company with a mission to promote maintenance of a healthy metabolism and lifestyle." It manufactures dietary supplements, initially aimed at curbing the desire to smoke tobacco, but now also including an ant-inflammatory supplement--AnatablocTM--designed to help the body fight inflammation without using additional drugs. Currently, Star Scientific stock is trading at around $1, after having been as high as almost $5 in mid-2012.

The "scheme" as specified in the indictment:
As set forth in greater detail below, from in or about April 2011 through in or about March 2013, the defendants participated in a scheme to use ROBERT MCDONNELL'S official position as the Governor of Virginia to enrich the defendants and their family members by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, gifts, and other things of value from JW and Star Scientific in exchange for ROBERT MCDONNELL and the OGV performing official actions on an as-needed basis, as opportunities arose, to legitimize, promote, and obtain research studies for StarScientific's products, including Anatabloc®. And asalso detailed below, the defendants took steps throughout that time to conceal the scheme.
The indictment goes on to detail specific instances wherein the McDonnells not only received payments from Williams, but also solicited them:
On or about May 2, 2011, JW had a private meeting with MAUREEN MCDONNELL at the Governor's Mansion. During the meeting, MAUREEN MCDONNELL informed JW that she and ROBERT MCDONNELL were having severe financial difficulties. MAUREEN MCDONNELL asked JW for a $50,000 loan. MAUREEN MCDONNELL also told JW that she could help Star Scientific but that she needed JW's financial assistance.
There is a lot more, all of it of a similar nature. This is--to put it mildly--hugely damaging stuff. There's not a whole lot of room in here for the McDonnells to wiggle free. Taken together, the charges will likely lead to prison time for both, if they are convicted. Note also that the indictment contains a forfeiture notice, as well, putting all of the McDonnells property in jeopardy.

McDonnell's response to the filing of the charges:
"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. However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.  
"I never promised – and Mr. Williams and his company never received – any government benefit of any kind from me or my administration. We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government."
I'd like to believe him, but it all smells pretty bad to me. Moreover, it's interesting that--according to the above statement--the McDonnells' money problems seem to have disappeared jn a rather short period of time, though it's beyond me how a sitting governor could end up in such dire straits to begin with (which of course suggests the "financial difficulties" angle was something of a ruse).

But we'll have to wait and see how things play out.

Cheers, all.

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