Jury seated in Georgia peanut salmonella trial

Peanut Corporation of AmericaALBANY, Ga. (AP) _ A jury has been seated to hear the trial of three people charged in connection with a deadly salmonella outbreak traced to a southwest Georgia peanut plant five years ago.  The final panel of 12 jurors was selected Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Albany. Six alternates also were chosen. The judge dismissed the jury early, with opening statements scheduled for Friday morning. The trial is expected to last at least two months. Former Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart Parnell; his brother and food broker, Michael Parnell; and the peanut plant’s quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson, are charged with shipping tainted peanuts and covering up lab results showing nuts tested positive for salmonella. Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the outbreak.

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Rolex passed among jurors in ex-Va. gov trial

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A key witness in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell testified that he made a mistake when he bought a Rolex watch for the governor at the first lady’s request. Businessman Jonnie Williams said Thursday that he thought it was wrong to buy the watch and didn’t want people to know. The watch was passed to the jury, where each juror briefly handled and inspected it. Williams said the watch cost between $6,000 and $7,000. The watch is an important piece of evidence because it represents a tangible chunk of the more than $165,000 in secret gifts prosecutors say the McDonnells received from Williams. Other monetary gifts and loans can’t be presented in court for jurors to hold.  In exchange for the gifts, prosecutors say the McDonnells promoted Williams’ products.

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Jurors told peanut salmonella trial may exceed 2 months

WLNI-SALBANY, Ga. (AP) _ The trial of three people charged in a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut plant could keep jurors tied up at least two months. U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands told several dozen people called in for jury selection Wednesday that prosecutors alone may need eight weeks to present evidence. Asked if prolonged service would be a hardship, 20 people stood up and were questioned privately by the judge and attorneys. Former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and food broker, Michael Parnell, and the peanut plant’s quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson, are charged with shipping tainted peanuts and covering up lab results showing nuts tested positive for salmonella. Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the outbreak five years ago. The company was headquartered just outside Lynchburg.

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Trial turns to trips for former Va. first family

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The former assistant to the wealthy businessman at the center of the corruption case against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife is testifying for the prosecution. Jerri Fulkerson told a jury Wednesday about her involvement in arranging trips for members of the McDonnell family and writing checks for two loans totaling $70,000. She said she did so at the direction of her boss, Jonnie Williams.  Bob and Maureen McDonnell are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Williams, then the CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for promoting his products. Williams is expected to testify under immunity as the prosecution’s star witness. Defense attorneys said Tuesday that Maureen McDonnell had developed a “crush” on Williams.

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Trial reveals governor’s wife had ‘crush’ on CEO

WLNI-SRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ An attorney for the wife of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says during the couple’s corruption trial that their marriage was broken and the former first lady developed a crush on a businessman who gave the McDonnells gifts and cash.   The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for helping promote his dietary supplements company.   Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer William A. Burck said Tuesday during opening statements that the former first lady was “duped” by Williams into thinking he cared for her.  Burck said Williams also fooled the Department of Justice and has received immunity from a $10 million stock fraud investigation in exchange for testifying against the McDonnells. The former governor’s lawyers’ opening statements are to follow.

Earlier in the day, a federal prosecutor said the government will prove Virginia’s former governor and his wife illegally lined their pockets with gifts from a businessman who sought their influence to promote his company.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber delivered the government’s opening statement Tuesday. Aber said Jonnie Williams will testify under immunity that he initially lied to investigators when he said he was a personal friend of the McDonnells and wanted nothing in return for his generosity.

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Former Congressman Caldwell Butler dies

Caldwell Butler (UVA Library photo)

Caldwell Butler (UVA Library photo)

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ Caldwell Butler, a five-term Republican congressman from Virginia who voted for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment, has died. Former Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen and officials with Oakey’s Funeral Service in Roanoke say Butler died Tuesday. The Roanoke resident was 89.  An attorney, Butler represented Virginia’s 6th congressional district in the U.S. House from 1972 to 1982.  Watergate unfolded during his first term. He helped the House Judiciary Committee draft the Nixon impeachment articles and later voted for them, admitting it took a toll on his political career. Nixon resigned in August 1974 before the full House debated his impeachment. Cullen served as Butler’s press secretary during the impeachment proceedings. Oakey’s is in charge of arrangements, which are incomplete. Butler’s wife, June, died last month.

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US court: Va. gay marriage ban unconstitutional

WLNI-SRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has struck down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.  A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled Monday that state constitutional and statutory provisions barring gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions performed in other states violate the U.S. Constitution. The Virginia gay marriage case is one of several that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In February, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban violates equal protection and due process guarantees. Lawyers for two circuit court clerks whose duties include issuing marriage licenses appealed.  The lawsuit was filed by two Norfolk men who were denied a marriage license and two Chesterfield County women whose marriage in California is not recognized by Virginia.

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McDonnell, wife go on trial in Richmond

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Jury selection is on the agenda for opening day in the corruption trial of a former Virginia governor and his wife in Richmond.  Bob and Maureen McDonnell are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from the CEO of a dietary supplements company in exchange for helping promote his products. Their trial in federal court begins at 10 a.m. Monday and is expected to last at least five weeks. McDonnell was a rising national star in the Republican party and was considered a possible Mitt Romney running mate in 2012 before the federal investigation ruined his political future. He has apologized for what he described as bad judgment and and repaid about $120,000 in gifts and loans, but has denied breaking any laws.

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McDonnell defense fund raises another $93,000

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The legal defense fund for former Gov. Bob McDonnell is reporting that it raised $93,000 during the second quarter of this year. The fund’s quarterly report to the IRS was made public Tuesday. The McDonnells spent Tuesday morning in federal court attending a pre-trial motion hearing. The fund, called the Restoration Fund, has raised more than $250,000 since it was created by McDonnell supporters last year. The former Republican governor and his wife, Maureen, are set to go to trial later this month on corruption charges. The former first couple have pleaded not guilty. The fund has reported spending more than $170,000, mostly to the couple’s attorneys.

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Former Va. governor opposes witness limit

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s former governor has urged a federal judge to allow him to call up to 10 character witnesses in his corruption trial.  Prosecutors want to limit Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, to three character witnesses apiece.  The McDonnells are charged in 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his products. Their trial is set for July 28.   In court papers filed Tuesday, the former governor’s lawyers say the case boils down to “a credibility contest” between McDonnell and Williams, who is expected to testify for the prosecution. They argue that as many as 10 witnesses are needed to provide a complete picture of McDonnell’s character.  Prosecutors have argued that any more than three would be unnecessarily repetitive.

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