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Judge orders production of computer in McDonnell case

The judge hearing the public corruption charges against former Gov. Bob McDonnell has allowed both sides to examine a computer server expected to contain information about a secret proposed contract involving the former first lady’s chief of staff.

U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer Monday ordered a subpoena for the computer which was once used by the public relations firm Benedetti & Farris.

McDonnell’s lawyers are seeking evidence to bolster their theory that a private lunch at the Governor’s Mansion in 2011 was not so much a payback for McDonnell benefactor Jonnie Williams as it was a bid by Maureen McDonnell’s chief of staff to nail down her own business deal with Williams’ company.

Many of the PR firm’s records were destroyed when the company dissolved, but a computer server was discovered in the possession of the firm’s former IT provider, according to McDonnell’s lawyers.

McDonnell’s legal team says the computer server could hold details of the proposed contract that would have Williams’ company, Star Scientific Inc., pay an annual retainer of $108,000 for the services of former Maureen McDonnell chief of staff Mary Shea Sutherland.

Spencer ordered the search of the computer server to be limited to:

  • Any relationship between Sutherland and the PR firm,
  • Sutherland’s relationship with the McDonnells, Williams and Star Scientific,
  • The PR firm’s relationship with Williams and Star Scientific,
  • Any contracts between Sutherland and clients of the PR firm, and
  • The luncheon held at the Governor’s Mansion on Aug. 30, 2011.

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