Judge tells potential McDonnell jurors to ‘not be intimidated’

Posted at 12:41 PM, Jul 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-29 00:03:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Jury selection started Monday in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is charged along with his wife of improperly accepting gifts from a businessman while in office in exchange for promoting his company.

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McDonnell, a one-time rising star in the Republican Party with potential presidential ambitions, and his wife, Maureen, entered the federal courthouse in Richmond for the trial that is expected to last several weeks.

The pair has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of fraud, making false statements, and obstruction. They were indicted in January after McDonnell left office. Virginia governors cannot serve consecutive terms.

The McDonnells are accused of accepting gifts with a combined value of $140,000 at minimum from nutritional supplement executive, Jonnie Williams, in exchange for promoting his company using the power and the trappings of the governor's office.

The gifts included designer clothes, a Rolex watch, golf clubs, iPhones and a painting, according to a list of items included in the indictment.

At the time of the indictment, McDonnell admitted using poor judgment but said he didn't commit any crime.

"I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship," he said following the indictment.

At least 25 former staff members have been subpoenaed from both the prosecution and the defense, the Washington Post reported.

The list of witnesses is also set to include the head of the governor's state police protection detail, Maureen McDonnell's manicurist, and 14 researchers and administrators at the University of Virginia, according to the Post. All five of the family's grown children may also be asked to take the stand.

The McDonnells lost their bid for separate trials.