Political analyst on obstacles in McDonnells’ defense

WAVY/Andy Fox

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — It’s a trial that has taken so many twists and turns over the past five weeks: the intimate details about the relationship of the former first couple of Virginia, their financial problems, and their dealings with a former CEO, has wrapped up.

On Friday, closing arguments are expected in the first trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, who are accused of corruption while in office. The McDonnells claim their innocence.

It’s ultimately up to a 12-person jury to decide guilt or innocence, or they may not be able to decide at all. If they can’t decide, it’s a hung jury, which would be a win for Bob and Maureen McDonnell.

Now, a noted political analyst and trial watcher talked to 10 On Your Side about the trial. He said it may not be the corruption charges that the McDonnells need to worry about.

On Thursday, when WAVY.com asked Governor McDonnell what he regrets about what has happened, he responded, “I am what I am. I am a human being like everyone of you. We all do things we wish we would have done a little differently.”

If you ask Political Analyst and Court Observer Dr. Bob Holsworth, there is one thing Bob McDonnell could have done a “little differently” to possibly keep himself from being on trial. That one thing: not take the loans from Jonnie Williams.

“To do all this on a handshake without documentation — at that time Bob McDonnell should have thrown Jonnie William’s out of his office,” Holsworth said. “‘This is not the kind of deal in which I engage,’ he should have said.”

But we now know McDonnell took from Williams a $50,0000 off-line loan made out to McDonnell’s company MoBo LLC, and then a $20,000 loan, and kept it secret even from his closest advisers. Maureen McDonnell got a $50,000 loan, too. The loans were at only 2 percent interest, and expected to be paid back in three or four years.

“For Bob McDonnell’s closest aides, when they were working with Jonnie Williams, the failure to disclose the fact that he had taken all these sweetheart deals, he and his family, from Jonnie Williams is enough to say there is a consciousness of guilt,” Holsworth said.

McDonnell explains the loans by saying he did not personally guarantee the loans, they weren’t made out to him, but to his company, and therefore did not need to be reported.

“It seems pretty clear the prosecution has done an extraordinarily good job in showing that Jonnie William’s provided a corrupt deal to Bob McDonnell, that he provided this sweetheart loan because he wanted to get something out of government,” Holsworth said.

Holsworth also notes this defense could very well create reasonable doubt.

Five days after the McDonnells became aware of the investigation, McDonnell clarified his bank documents to show the loans.

Holsworth also points out the corruption charges. Bob McDonnell’s contention he never did anything for Jonnie Williams — no preferential treatment, no access, no state grants, no line-items in the state budget, nothing.

“The second point where Bob McDonnell seems to be on stronger ground is his agreement. He didn’t take any official act on behalf of Jonnie Williams, and the corrupt bargain that Jonnie Williams wanted to initiate,” Holsworth said.

It should be noted the Federal U.S. Attorneys, in order to prosecute the McDonnells, gave Williams full immunity from prosecution.

Dr. Holsworth says the clear issue is what constitutes an official act by Bob McDonnell. A “quid pro quo” — Latin for “I give you this, you give me that.” Holsworth said many speculate this case is heavy on “quid,” and light on “quo.”

Only time will tell, if the jury agrees. Closing arguments and the start of jury deliberation are expected Friday. WAVY News 10 will be in Richmond to bring you the latest details of the trial.

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