Criminal Justice

'Mudslinging' motions by McDonnell lawyers compare prosecutors to Caligula


Bust of Emperor Caligula. Image from Shutterstock.

Motions filed on behalf of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell excoriate prosecutors as they offer a look at defense strategy in corruption case.

The court documents argue that McDonnell’s actions on behalf of a diet-supplement company weren’t official acts that violate federal law, the Washington Post reports. The story calls the “mudslinging” motions “aggressive—even rancorous.”

A defense motion (PDF) argues that McDonnell is being prosecuted for “routine political conduct,” and compares prosecutors to the Roman emperor Caligula, who tried to imprison people “for violating laws written in tiny lettering on a pillar too high to see.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch has previous coverage.

A defense filing in a dispute over documents makes a sarcastic reference to speed reader Evelyn Wood, the Post says. A request for instructions given to grand jurors says prosecutors used an “unprecedented legal theory that eradicates all limitations on federal bribery law.” Another motion says prosecutors may not understand their legal obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence.

McDonnell is represented by John Brownlee of Holland & Knight and Henry Asbill of Jones Day.

McDonnell and his wife are accused of accepting loans, gifts, vacations and the use of a private plane from Jonnie Williams Sr., then the CEO of diet supplement company Star Scientific. In exchange, prosecutors allege, the McDonnells used their positions to benefit the company.

Prosecutors say the McDonnells promoted the diet supplement at events, arranged meetings between Williams and state officials, and encouraged state researchers to conduct trials of the diet supplement.

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