Attorneys analyze McDonnells’ corruption trial

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — There will be many twists and turns in the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. But where does it stand now? 10 On Your Side spoke with two attorneys, who analyzed the case.

So far, the biggest part of the trial has been the testimony of businessman Jonnie Williams. On Monday, Williams was described by the former governor’s political operative as “a little bit of a snake oil salesman.”  And Virginia Beach Attorney Sonny Stallings agrees.

“I think Jonnie Williams is a salesman, and he was selling on the stand, and the federal prosecutors knew what he was selling, and they were buying,” Stallings said.

Stallings said he thinks McDonnell did favors for Williams in the marketing of Williams’ company’s product in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. Former Asst. U.S. Attorney Hunter Sims, who is now a partner at Kaufman & Canoles, is not sure that connection has been made.

“I think the jury is going to sit in the jury room and say, ‘what did Williams get out of this, and why is this something that is influence?’ I don’t know if there is any evidence of that yet,” Sims said.

However, both Sims and Stallings agree Williams succeeded at closing the gap between the former governor and himself.

“There is no question about that … [McDonnell] clearly knew where the Rolex watch came from, and there is a picture of him wearing it, and he text it to Jonnie Williams,” Sims said. “There was a $20,000 loan, he thanked Jonnie Williams for that.”

Both attorneys agree Bob mcDonnell will have to take the stand, and he will need to explain how he finds himself in this predicament after being Virginia’s attorney general for four years prior to being governor.

Sims and Stallings say McDonnell’s failure to report the Jonnie Williams loans to financial institutes alleged to be wire fraud might be his bigger problem, and McDonnell will also need to explain that: “the hiding of it is a problem for him, I think, and I don’t know how he will explain that on the witness stand,” Sims said.

Sims also questions the defense’s strategy in claiming the McDonnells weren’t on speaking terms, and thus incapable of conspiring together.

“Right now I don’t see the jury buying the fact the McDonnell’s weren’t speaking to each other,” he said. “It will be difficult for them to show that.”

And trying to fake the jury on that idea could hurt them even more: “any jury that thinks they are being fooled or having the wool pulled over their eyes, or sold a story that is not right, they act adversely to that,” Sims said.

Sims also thinks prosecutors erred in unnecessarily showing video of Cailin McDonnell’s wedding that ended up making her cry on the stand: “You got to make sure the jury doesn’t think you are picking on somebody, and I thought that was an incident. If I were on the jury, I wouldn’t like that they did that with the daughter it was unnecessary.”

So who’s winning?

“The government is winning after week one, but they should be winning because they are supposed to be winning after week one,” Stallings said. “If they aren’t, they are in serious trouble.

And while some say the McDonnells are losing, there’s much more testimony to go. “There’s a long way to go in this trial,” Sims added.

The 12 person jury must be unanimous in its decision on the McDonnells’ guilty. Both Stallings and Sims see a scenario where there is a hung jury. Stallings thinks if that happens, both sides would be left scrambling for a deal because he doesn’t think they want to go through this again.

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