RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – Former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen faced a judge for the first time since being indicted on corruption charges this week.
McDonnell and his wife Maureen arrived at Federal Court Friday morning, knowing most of the next eight months will be spent trying to stay out of federal prison. The couple appeared for both a bond hearing and an arraignment.
State Senator John Cosgrove (R) Chesapeake was in the courtroom and talked to WAVY.com.
“I’m here today because Bob McDonnell is a good friend of mine. He has been a friend of mine for 15 years,” Cosgrove said. “I love the guy to death, and he needs to know he has friends right now.”
During the bond hearing, the McDonnells were granted personal recognizance bonds, meaning they just had to promise to be at their next court appearances. A condition of the bond was both had to surrender their passports and were told not to leave the country.
The couple pleaded not guilty. The trial against them was set for July 28 and will be a jury trial, which could last from five to six weeks.
During the first appearance hearing, Magistrate Judge David J. Novak ordered enacted Rule 57, which forbids any extra-judicial comments, meaning both parties are not allowed to talk to the media or have contact with witnesses or the prosecution.
“This case will be tried in the courtroom and not in the media,” Novak said. “You all are entitled to a fair trial, and so are the people of Virginia.”
Former Virginia Delegate Chris Saxman retired from the House in 2010 and worked with McDonnell. He told WAVY.com he believes Bob McDonnell is innocent.
“I trust Bob,” Saxman said. “I love him. It’s difficult to watch because you can’t see everything on your watch, and that’s tough to be held accountable. We are going to pray for him and his family.”
Cosgrove reiterated what McDonnell said Tuesday, that the government is overstepping and overreaching the legal bounds.
“The scope of the indictment is so large, I really don’t believe Bob broke any laws, and I really think the government is overstepping its bounds in this,” he said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was not at the hearing, but was asked about the case Thursday.
“It is not a question of overreaching,” Holder said. “I think we brought charges commensurate with the conduct that is alleged.”
On Friday, the McDonnells also had to report the medications they take. Bob McDonnell reported he takes medication for high blood pressure, and Maureen is taking medication to help her deal with anxiety attacks.
WAVY.com was there when the McDonnells, several family members, and a priest exited the courthouse. Reporters and photographers swarmed the McDonnells as they left, and as the wave moved away from the courthouse, you could hear clapping for the McDonnells.
“We love you Governor McDonnell,” someone in the crowd yelled.
“Thank you,” McDonnell said. “God has blessed me with great friends and family.”
“Bob McDonnell is a good and passionate man, and I think it really hurts that people think he did something illegal,” Cosgrove said.
The McDonnells are facing several charges including wire fraud in connection to the gifts scandal that has embroiled the couple for months.
McDonnell said he broke no laws. The government claims he schemed to use his office to enrich his family and himself by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, and gifts from Richmond-area businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for McDonnell performing official actions to promote Williams’ health supplement business, Star Scientific, Inc.
Despite Bob McDonnell’s request to have Friday’s hearings pushed back one week, the judge explained Friday the reason the request was denied was due to the fact he wanted everyone in the same room and on the same page and didn’t want comments made to the media.