RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Gov. Bob McDonnell's lawyers have asked the judge in his public corruption case to give them access to evidence in a lawsuit against the company he and his wife are accused of illegally promoting.
Defense attorneys filed the motion in U.S. District Court after another judge granted a motion by prosecutors to keep evidence in the lawsuit against Star Scientific Inc. under wraps until the criminal case against McDonnell is completed. The lawsuit by shareholders accuses executives of the dietary supplements maker, including former CEO Jonnie Williams Sr., of misleading investors.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged in a 14-count federal indictment last month with accepting more than $165,000 in loans and gifts from Williams in exchange for helping promote his company's products. They have pleaded not guilty, and a jury trial is set for late July.
In court papers filed last month, prosecutors said some of the facts, allegations and potential witnesses in the criminal and civil cases are the same. Allowing the civil discovery process to continue in the lawsuit would reveal information to which the criminal defendants are not entitled and would prejudice the government's case, they said. U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney granted their motion to suspend discovery.
Bob McDonnell's lawyers said in a motion filed late Thursday that prosecutors are trying to obstruct his defense. They said the order violates McDonnell's constitutional rights to due process and to a defense.
"Justice is not done — but rather thwarted — when prosecutors hinder the potential discovery of evidence relevant to pending charges," they said.
Evidence in the lawsuit would likely impeach Williams' credibility as a witness and possibly "uncover additional misdeeds" by the former CEO and his colleagues, the lawyers said.
Defense attorneys asked U.S. District Judge James Spender to reopen discovery in the civil case. They also asked for a hearing on the issue.
Prosecutors did not immediately file a response.
The investigation crippled the chances of attaining higher office for McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party who had even been considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney in 2012. McDonnell has apologized for what he describes as bad judgment and has said he repaid about $120,000 in gifts and loans, but has denied breaking any laws.