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January 25, 2014

Former gov., wife plead not guilty

RICHMOND, Va. — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that they traded their influence for tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans, and both will be allowed to remain free until their trial.

“It’s not guilty, your honor,” McDonnell said when asked his plea.

U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer set a July 28 start for a jury trial. The proceedings are expected to last five to six weeks.

An hour before pleading not guilty, the McDonnells were released on their own recognizance Friday but were ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak not to leave the country. The former governor’s lawyer, John Brownlee, told Novak the defendants already have surrendered their passports.

The McDonnells were indicted on 14 counts Tuesday after a lengthy federal investigation of his relationship with a former CEO of a dietary supplement maker

Both judges issued strong warnings against leaking sensitive information to the media. Much of the details of the government’s case against McDonnell had long been made public through months of news stories based on anonymous sources

“This case is going to be tried in the courtroom; it is not going to be tried in the media,” Novak said. “The gamesmanship with the media ends now.”

Bob and Maureen McDonnell often held hands as they made their way through the courthouse. Both hearings were packed with family, supporters and the media. Supporters include prominent Republican lawmakers, like House Speaker William J. Howell and House Majority Leader Kirk Cox.

At the arraignment, Maureen McDonnell said she was currently taking prescription medication for “concentration and anxiety.”

Federal prosecutors allege the McDonnells accepted more than $165,000 worth of loans and gifts from Jonnie Williams, the former head of Star Scientific Inc. Prosecutors say that in return, the McDonnells improperly helped Williams promote his company’s products.

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