TODAY   |  January 25, 2014

Former Virginia governor, wife plead not guilty in bribe case

The fallout continues in Virginia after former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife faced federal bribery charges Friday. While the details of the case may be salacious, legal analysts say the prosecutors have a tough case to prove. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> the latest on former virginia governor bob mcdonnell and his wife, who are facing federal bribery charges. prosecutors accuse the couple of taking bribes from a businessman who was allegedly looking for help from the state. kristen welker is in washington now to tell us more about this. kristen , good morning, again.

>> reporter: lester, good morning, again, to you. the mcdonnells are free and won't have another court date until july. and while the details of their case may be salacious, legal analysts say prosecutors actually have a tough case to prove. holding hands and walking briskly past supporters, former virginia governor bob mcdonnell and his wifaced a district judge friday. the former first couple pleaded not guilty to charges they accepted thousands of dollars in loans and gifts from virginia businessman johnny williams , who ran a struggling company, star scientific, and who, according to prosecutors, was looking for the state's help in promoting his line of dietary supplements .

>> the power of this case, the ka pow, if you will, is the eye-popping amount, the laundry list of goodies.

>> reporter: prosecutors say that list includes a rolex watch, inscribed "71st governor of virginia " that mrs. mcdonnell allegedly requested as a gift for her husband, a private vacation at a multimillion dollar lake house in virginia, and, upon request from mrs. mcdonnell , a ferrari to drive for the weekend. prosecutors say there was also a new york shopping spree for the governor's wife, where the businessman spent thousands at oscar de la renta , luis vuitton and bergdorf goodman . prosecutors also say she persuaded the businessman to give the mcdonnells a $50,000 loan and to pay $15,000 for catering at their daughter's wedding. mcdonnell says he has repaid the loans with interest and returned many of the items, and this week pronounced his innocence.

>> mr. williams and his company never received any government benefits of any kind for me or from my administration.

>> reporter: legal analysts say prosecutors have a tough case to prove.

>> the hard part for the government in any white-collar prosecution is that they have to prove a corrupt intent, and they have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt .

>> reporter: now, the businessman, johnny williams , is not facing any charges at this point. if convicted, the mcdonnells could face decades in prison and fines of over $1 million. critical analysts say no matter what the legal outcome, this is just a stunning fall from grace . you'll remember mcdonnell was once considered as a possible contender for the 2016 presidential race. lester, back to you.

>> all right, kristen . thank you.