McDonnells' Sad Defense: We Hated Each Other

Virginia's former first couple fight corruption charges by saying they barely spoke

By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 30, 2014 1:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Bob and Maureen McDonnell's corruption trial got under way this week, and it's yielding no dearth of grist for the mill. While it appeared financial problems drove Virginia's former first couple to accept $165,000 in loans and gifts from a donor, the McDonnells' lawyer put up what the Virginian-Pilot calls "a line of defense worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy" during yesterday's proceedings. Namely, that the McDonnells' marriage was so terrible that they "were barely on speaking terms," and thus couldn't have conspired. Maureen McDonnell "said she hated (her husband)," said lawyer John Brownlee.

Bob McDonnell's long hours on the job and the couple's dreary finances resulted in "a rift so wide" that "an outsider"—in this case, Star Scientific honcho and mega-donor Jonnie Williams—"could invade and poison the marriage." Adding insult to injury, Maureen McDonnell had a major "crush" on the gift-giving Williams. An ex-federal prosecutor tells the AP that lawyers for the McDonnells are trying to build up the lovelorn-wife story to show that she was "duped" by Williams—who reportedly showered her with fancy clothes, trips, and cash in exchange for the governor's promotion of his business—and to break down the prosecution's case by "[creating] some sympathy" for Bob McDonnell. The Washington Post has a liveblog of the trial here, including a photo of the seemingly happy couple posing in Williams' Ferrari.

In this Jan. 21, 2014, file photo, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks during a news conference, accompanied by his wife, Maureen.
In this Jan. 21, 2014, file photo, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks during a news conference, accompanied by his wife, Maureen.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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