Before the indictment came down against Bob and Maureen McDonnell, Maureen told prosecutors that she felt solely responsible for striking up the couple's scandalous relationship with Star Scientific, and asked prosecutors if they could let Bob off the hook, sources tell the Washington Post. But prosecutors showed no interest in the deal, instead later countering with one that would see Bob take the fall, pleading guilty to a felony fraud charge entirely unrelated to the corruption allegations and letting Maureen walk. The governor rejected the offer.
The McDonnells likely believe they can argue that it was solely Maureen who had inappropriate dealings with wealthy donor Jonnie Williams—the indictment indicates she's the one who usually asked for gifts. But because Maureen didn't officially hold public office, she couldn't independently commit a crime by taking the gifts; the prosecution's case hinges on arguing that she and her husband acted as a conspiracy, with the former governor agreeing to help Williams. It's telling that the defense's formal reply to the charges begins, "Bob McDonnell is an innocent man," mentioning Maureen only in a footnote. (Read more Bob McDonnell stories.)