How badly does former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell want to stay out of jail? Enough to build his defense against federal corruption charges around the disintegration of his 38-year marriage. At issue is whether McDonnell and his wife Maureen accepted nearly $177,000 in cash, loans and gifts like a Rolex from the CEO of a nutritional-supplement maker in exchange for doing special favors for the company. A onetime GOP rising star, McDonnell rejected a plea deal that would have shielded his family from the embarrassing spectacle of a trial in favor of an attempt to clear his name in court. His strategy for doing so: dragging his professed “soul mate” through the mud.
In five days of testimony, McDonnell argued that he and his wife could not have conspired to accept the gifts from Star Scientific’s Jonnie R. Williams Sr. because the couple were barely on speaking terms. And that, he said, was in part because Maureen was so mean that the staff at the governor’s mansion signed a petition threatening to quit if her behavior didn’t improve. The pair are still married, although McDonnell has moved out during the trial.
This appears in the September 08, 2014 issue of TIME.