FDA, SEC files sought in McDonnell case
RICHMOND—Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s attorneys are seeking documents from two federal agencies that they hope to use to attack the credibility of the government’s expected star witness in his public corruption case.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Williams in exchange for helping in promoting his products. They have pleaded not guilty. Williams is expected to testify at the jury trial set to begin July 28.
Defense attorneys filed papers late Thursday asking U.S. District Judge James Spencer to issue subpoenas for U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Securities and Exchange Commission files of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc. and its former CEO, Jonnie Williams.
“The requested subpoenas seek documents related to federal government investigations into a principal witness in the case and his company, which is itself at the center of the allegations,” McDonnell’s attorneys wrote.
Defense attorneys say those documents will be essential to evaluating Williams’ testimony, including whether the government offered him immunity from potential charges in the FDA and SEC investigations in exchange for his cooperation in the McDonnell case.
In December, the FDA sent a letter to Star Scientific Inc. stating that it apparently failed to get required federal approval before marketing two products, including the one the McDonnells allegedly helped Williams promote. The company also was the subject of a securities investigation, but federal prosecutors said in a letter attached to the latest McDonnell court filing that the SEC has informed them the informal inquiry is now closed.
McDonnell’s attorneys said they have been unable to obtain the documents through Freedom of Information Act requests. The SEC told them it has about seven boxes of documents related to Williams, but it would take at least two years to release them through FOIA because of a massive backlog of requests—“hardly a solution to the defense’s urgent need for information,” they wrote.
Prosecutors have not yet responded to the motion.
On Friday, Spencer rejected two motions previously filed by McDonnell seeking immediate disclosure of certain evidence. The first of those motions, filed the day McDonnell was indicted in January, complained that prosecutors seemed to have “a narrow view” of their disclosure obligations. A Feb. 19 motion said a massive database of evidence turned over by the government was “riddled with errors” and incomprehensible; it asked the judge to order an immediate fix.
Prosecutors have said in court papers that they are complying with evidence-sharing rules and that the database problems have been corrected.
Spencer said in his one-page order that he would explain his reasons for rejecting McDonnell’s motions later.
The investigation crippled chances of attaining higher office for McDonnell. Once a rising star in the Republican Party, he had even been considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney in 2012.
McDonnell was indicted 10 days after his term ended.