McDonnell Trial Day 26: Jury Deliberations Begin
A federal jury heard instructions from a judge Tuesday morning before beginning deliberations in the public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's product. The McDonnells face 12 counts that are the same: nine counts of corruption, two counts of conspiracy to commit corruption and one count of making false statements when they signed a loan application. Bob McDonnell also faces a charge for making a false statement on another bank document and Maureen McDonnell is facing a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys wrapped up the five-week trial Friday. Bob McDonnell testified he did nothing other than extend routine political courtesies to Williams. Maureen McDonnell did not testify. Williams testified under immunity that he spent freely on the McDonnells only to secure help promoting his company's chief product, the anti-inflammatory Anatabloc.
U.S. District Judge James Spencer spent two hours delivering his instructions to the seven-man, five-woman jury. The jury has a range of options - from a complete acquittal to finding the McDonnells guilty on one or all of the charges. One instruction allows the jury to not have to find an explicit agreement between the two for it to find a corrupt bargain. Another instruction allows the jury to find reasonable doubt for Bob McDonnell on all charges based on testimony of his good character.
“Given the defense spent so much time trying to extol and laud Mr. McDonnell's character that might be a saving grace for trial," said political analyst Bob Holsworth said.
Since the start, both sides have argued over the definition of "official actions." Whether Bob McDonnell is found guilty of corruption may turn on whether he engaged in official acts in return for gifts and loans. The prosecution may have scored points with the judge's instruction on the matter.
“I think the prosecution was happy the judge said an official action didn't have to be something out of the routine, didn't have to be a legal action of any sort that Bob McDonnell took,” Holsworth stated.
The judge also told the jury that if it found the former governor not guilty on the corruption charges, then it would have to find Maureen McDonnell not guilty on the corruption charges she faces as well. That is because she is not a public official and cannot act as a public official by herself but only as an agent of Bob McDonnell.
The jury will meet every day from 9:30 to 5:30 until they reach a verdict. One alternate is on standby in case another juror leaves. The analysts NBC29 spoke with expect the deliberations to last anywhere from two to nine days.
If the McDonnells are convicted, they could face up to 30 years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.