Judge threatens to jail McDonnells if they disobey order

RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen walked into Federal court in Richmond today for what turned out to a contentious hearing.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak started off the proceeding by stating to Bob McDonnell's attorney John Brownlee, "It seems to me you might be the only criminal defense lawyer in history who wants his client to talk."

Brownlee said, "This case is all about the family members and their friends and their support system." He said he didn't want his client caught in a "gotcha game" by the government.

The McDonnells were indicted on federal corruption charges on Jan. 21. They're accused of receiving $165,000 in gifts and money from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr., and in exchange helped promote Star's dietary supplement Anatabloc.

Today's hearing was requested by the McDonnells' lawyers last week to clarify who the defendants could talk to about the case and what they could talk about. At their first court appearance on Jan. 24th, Novak ordered the McDonnells not to have any contact with witnesses or representatives of the government.

However, since the McDonnell's family members and friends are potential witnesses, questions arose. The McDonnells' children are mentioned in the indictment for having received money and gifts from Williams as well.

Brownlee pressed Judge Novak to only restrict conversations about the case to individual's testimony. Novak refused.

The hearing became even more contentious. The judge ordered the McDonnells to not discuss the substance of the case with anyone, including family and friends. Novak said if they do, the government will find out, we'll have a hearing and "I'm going to have to put you in jail, regardless of your prior position."

Novak said they may only talk about non-controversial matters such as when they might be due in court. Novak said the McDonnells are free to talk about anything concerning the case between themselves.

Judge Novak asked if the McDonnells understood and each answered, "Yes, your honor."

The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty to all allegations. Their trial is scheduled to begin July 28.


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