Former Gov. McDonnell's Pre-Trial Talks Limited - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Former Gov. McDonnell's Pre-Trial Talks Limited

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A federal magistrate says he will not hesitate to throw Bob and Maureen McDonnell in jail if they break the rules. The former governor and first lady received strict instructions in court Monday morning on what they can and cannot say as their federal corruption case goes to trial.

The McDonnells are charged with 14 counts related to public corruption, and their children stand a good chance of being called as witnesses - but if they want to avoid a jail cell, they'll have to watch what they say to family and friends.

The McDonnells were back in court Monday for the second time in two weeks and Federal Magistrate Judge David Novak told the couple, in no uncertain terms, "I will put you in jail" if you break the rules of the court. Those rules are what brought them back before a judge so soon.

After a hearing January 24, the McDonnells were told they could have no contact with any potential witnesses - including family members. Attorneys for the McDonnells sought to change that Monday, asking the court to let them maintain contact with close friends and family before the case goes to trial. Responding to the request, Magistrate Judge Novak said both may have contact with prospective witnesses, including friends and family, under the condition that they "may not discuss in any manner the substance of the case."

That restriction will not apply to character witnesses, and the McDonnells will be able to speak freely to each other - but one slip-up and Novak warned "the government is going to find out."

Prosecution and defense teams will also have until Wednesday to share lists of prospective witnesses to remove any confusion about who this rule will apply to. The public won't find out what names are on those lists until the summer.

A six-week jury trial is scheduled to begin July 28 in Richmond.

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