Judge mostly sides with feds in McDonnell case

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Local,Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal judge ruled mostly in favor of prosecutors Wednesday on several pre-trial motions filed ahead of the corruption trial for former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

Judge James R. Spencer denied the McDonnells' request to allow expert witnesses to testify that the prosecution's star witness will reap substantial benefits from the government's requested suspension of evidence-gathering in two unrelated civil cases. The judge also denied motions made by the McDonnells' lawyers to bar certain evidence from trial, including financial disclosure forms the governor filed when in office and statements Maureen McDonnell made to law enforcement officials during an interview.

The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 worth of loans and gifts in exchange for helping former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams promote his company's dietary supplements.

The former first couple's defense team wanted attorney Peter H. White and forensic accountant J. Allen Kosowsky to testify in front of a jury that Star Scientific and Williams, a major shareholder, could benefit from a delay in the civil suits. Star Scientific has been renamed Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals.

Williams is expected to testify under immunity at the couple's trial, which is scheduled to begin July 28.

Spencer said the jury can apply its "own collective common sense" on the impact of the delayed civil suits and doesn't need expert help.

The judge did rule in favor of the former Republican governor and his wife on some issues. Spencer decided that Kosowsky could give expert testimony that the McDonnells' financial situation was sound when they accepted the gifts and loans from Williams. Attorneys for the McDonnells argued that Kosowsky's testimony is needed to show that the McDonnells' finances were not "desperate" to take Williams' money.

The indictment filed against the McDonnells highlights some the couple's financial struggles while in office and includes an email from Maureen saying the family is "broke" and has an "unconscionable amount" of credit card debt.

Spencer also denied the prosecution's request to limit the number of character witnesses the defense could call to three each but said he likely wouldn't allow more than five to testify at trial.

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