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Judge rejects acquittal bids in corruption trial of Virginia ex-governor, wife

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday rejected defense motions that former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife be acquitted in their corruption and bribery trial.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer turned down the bids after a one-hour hearing. The motions came after prosecutors wrapped up their case against McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife after almost three weeks of testimony.

Defense lawyers are expected to start calling witnesses on Monday. The McDonnells face a 14-count indictment alleging they accepted more than $165,000 in loans and gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement company Star Scientific Inc and its main product, Anatabloc.

McDonnell said after Spencer's ruling that he was looking forward to Monday to be able to tell his story.

"Obviously this is crushing to be a defendant in a criminal case. But I know in my heart what the truth is," McDonnell, 60, told reporters outside the courthouse.

Lawyers for McDonnell had argued that prosecutors failed to show that he carried out or promised to carry out any official act for Williams.

The former governor's lawyers also said the government had failed to prove that McDonnell made a false statement on a TowneBank loan application by not disclosing a loan from Williams on a personal financial statement.

Maureen McDonnell's lawyers argued that the governor had not carried out any official acts for Williams and the former first lady cannot be guilty as a private citizen.

They also said prosecutors failed to show she made a false statement on a loan application to Pentagon Federal Credit Union or tried to obstruct a grand jury proceeding.

Lawyers for the McDonnells have contended that the couple could not have conspired with Williams because their marriage was crumbling and they were not on speaking terms.

Defense lawyers have listed 121 potential witnesses for the couple, twice the number prosecutors had listed. Jurors were given Friday off.

McDonnell's four-year term ended in January. If the McDonnells are convicted, each could face a prison sentence of 20 years and hefty fines.

(This story corrects headline to say ex-governor instead of governor)

(Editing by Ian Simpson and Bill Trott)

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