Dim Outlook for McDonnell|in VA Corruption Appeal

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A 4th Circuit panel appeared skeptical Tuesday as attorneys sought to overturn former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s public corruption convictions.
     The gist of the argument made by McDonnell counsel Noel Francisco is that the jurors who found the former governor guilty last September of 11 counts of public corruption were not sufficiently questioned regarding pretrial media publicity, and were later provided with an overbroad definition of what constitutes an official act.
     Francisco went on to say that McDonnell accepted more than $165,000 in gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in “good faith” and nothing more.
     Prosecutors argued during McDonnell’s trial that the Williams provided the gifts in order to entice and reward McDonnell and his wife to use their influence to promote Antabloc, a dietary supplement for rheumatoid arthritis.
     Francisco said Tuesday this simply wasn’t true, that “mere ingratiation and access is not corruption.”
     U.S. Attorney Richard Cooke argued that the defense counsel were provided every opportunity to question potential jurors prior to the trial.
     According to Cooke, McDonnell’s attorneys sought individual interviews for 145 potential jurors “for a variety of reasons,” and that each of them confirmed they had read or heard about the charges against the former governor prior to the trial.
     The three-judge panel focused most of their questions on the instructions jurors received about the law as they headed into their deliberations.
     Two of the three judges, Robert King and Diana Gribbon Motz, appeared particularly wary of Francisco’s argument, with Motz pointedly suggesting McDonnell’s defense team wanted to give the jury “erroneous” information.
     Meanwhile, Judge King went to far as to say he felt the jury instruction had been favorable to McDonnell.
     The former governor attended court today surrounded by members of his family.
     Maureen McDonnell, the former governor’s estranged wife, also attended the hour-long session today, but she arrived separately and sat in the second row in the courtroom, away from her family.

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