McDonnell Defense Strategy: Painting Maureen as Unstable Wife

Posted: Updated: Sep 03, 2014 05:20 PM
Left: Maureen McDonnell Left: Maureen McDonnell

Leading up to the corruption trial against former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, legal experts anticipated the defense strategy would focus on tearing down the credibility of the businessman involved in the allegations. Instead, much of the attention shifted toward a tumultuous first family and a distressed wife.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are trying to fight off 14 counts of federal corruption and bank fraud charges. But much of their defense has revolved around the fighting between the couple. Witnesses called in on behalf of the defense have had some pretty harsh remarks to say about the former first lady of Virginia. But legal experts say that could all be part of the strategy.

In court, former mansion staffers and relatives have depicted Maureen as unstable, temperamental and lonely. Her behavior even provoked a letter in which aides said they could not take it anymore and wanted to quit because of Maureen.

But what do these portrayals really have to do with the allegations of a quid pro quo relationship with a wealthy Richmond businessman? Legal analyst Paul Goldman says, "In theory, the more you can put on her and the less you put on him, at least sounds like a possible clever defense.”

The unfavorable illustrations contrast sharply with the past. Maureen and Bob exchanged vows in 1976. She had nine siblings and a career in D.C. before her time as a Washington Redskins cheerleader. Then after they were married, she raised five children while he climbed the political ladder.

As the first lady of Virginia, she advocated for preventative health care, Virginia wine and tourism, and women's initiatives. Legal analysts say the defense may have chosen to play up Maureen's flaws for a reason. But outside the courtroom, much has been left unsaid about her.

Wednesday, Bob McDonnell testified in the trial against the couple. If convicted, he and Maureen McDonnell could face decades in prison.

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