McDonnell Trial: Defense Argues Wife Had Crush on Key Witness, Was “Collateral Damage”

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 29 2014 5:27 PM

McDonnell Trial: Defense Argues Wife Had Crush on Key Witness, Was “Collateral Damage”

464843375-former-virginia-gov-bob-mcdonnell-and-his-wife-maureen
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen took an interesting turn when Maureen's defense attorney suggested that the former first lady had developed romantic feelings for the man at the heart of trial— businessman Jonnie R. Williams.

During his opening statements, Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer William Burck said the couple’s marriage had “broken down” and that she had had a crush on Williams. Burck tagged Maureen's embroilment in the scandal as nothing more than a matter of "collateral damage." Here's more from the Washington Post:

Burck told jurors Maureen McDonnell was not a wife scheming with her governor husband so they could enrich themselves; she was instead a woman craving attention as her own marriage soured.
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It appears that the defense is playing what Slate's Dahlia Lithwick described as the "Blame Maureen Game." This time it's not greed that the first lady is being accused of, but lust. Burck portrays Maureen as a gullible lover and said that Williams "duped" her into believing that he cared for her. A former federal prosecutor unaffiliated with the case told the AP that the couple's recent portrayal of a broken marriage is designed to evoke public sympathy.

The McDonnells are dealing with a 14-count public corruption indictment that charges them with taking more than $165,000 in loans and gifts from Williams in exchange for promoting his vitamin supplements company. The trial is expected to take place over the course of five weeks and the jury was selected on Monday.

Irene Chidinma Nwoye is a writer and former Slate intern in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.

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