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Virginia Politics Likely To Be Under Microscope In McDonnell Corruption Trial

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Former Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell, right, and his wife Maureen, left, leave Federal court after a motions hearing in Richmond, Va. A federal judge sided with prosecutors on most pre-trial disputes.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Former Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell, right, and his wife Maureen, left, leave Federal court after a motions hearing in Richmond, Va. A federal judge sided with prosecutors on most pre-trial disputes.

Federal prosecutors are about to stage a public corruption case unlike any other.

The case against former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell reads like a cross between Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Law and Order, a story about a Boy Scout who becomes an elected official tangled up in a public corruption scandal revolving around a wealthy Virginia businessman seeking to buy power and influence.

George Mason professor Toni-Michelle Travis says the challenge for defense attorneys will be to portray the former governor as above reproach.

"They want to show that he's a straight-arrow guy and that he plays by the book, so to speak, and that therefore this conduct that he's being charged with is not in keeping with his real persona," she says.

The last few weeks have seen a flurry of motions about what evidence can be presented in court and who will be allowed to testify — a series of battles that saw prosecutors winning most of the arguments.

University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says the defense is likely to present an indictment of the political system, a strategy that would show McDonnell as an innocent man caught up in a corrupt system.

"The McDonnells will also have an opportunity, during their part of the presentation of the evidence, to engage in a wide-ranging conversation about how business is done in Virginia politics," Farnsworth says.

In the end, Farnsworth says, that means that Virginia will look much worse when all the evidence has been presented.

The McDonnells will go on trial beginning July 28.

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