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McDonnell Defense Begins This Week; Former Gov. Expected To Testify Last

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Former Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell, right, and his wife Maureen, left, are expected to speak in their own defense.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Former Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell, right, and his wife Maureen, left, are expected to speak in their own defense.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen will be back in federal court in Richmond this morning as they begin to mount their defense in the ongoing public corruption trial.

Finally, the governor gets to tell his side of the story — at least eventually. Before that happens, though, jurors are likely to hear from a number of other other friends and associates of the McDonnells.

"I think they are going to end with the governor," says Rich Kelsey, assistant dean at the George Mason School of Law. "I think it's going to be a very powerful scene, and at the end of the day I think the fate of the governor is going to be left directly in his hands."

That means the most dramatic moment of the trial is likely to be its closing days as the defense presents its star witness.

"This case is going to rise and fall on the governor's ability to deliver his testimony and deliver his side of the story, and I have to believe that's going to be done last," Kelsey says.

The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in secret gifts and loans from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who was granted immunity by prosecutors so they could go after the governor and his family. Now that the government has rested its case, the legal teams for Bob McDonnell and Maureen McDonnell are ready to present their case to the jury.

"I would expect to see fact witnesses for the defense first and then character witnesses and the defendants testifying, so I don't anticipate you'll see the defendants testifying, if they do testify, until later in their case," says Michael Levy, white collar defense attorney.

If convicted, the McDonnells could face decades in prison.

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