RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Consumer spending in Virginia is higher than it was before the Great Recession but is lagging behind the nation in spending growth. New state-level figures released Thursday by the federal government for the first time show that Virginia’s per capita consumer spending in 2012 grew 2.9 percent over the previous year. That’s weaker than the 3.3 percent growth in per capita consumer spending by the entire nation in 2012, the most recent year figures are available. Consumer spending has soared since the Great Recession ended five years ago in U.S. states with oil and gas drilling booms, and has lagged in states hit especially hard by the housing bust. On average, each Virginian spent $38,133 on consumer goods and services in 2012. Per capita spending nationwide was $35,498.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The woman who ran the governor’s mansion under Bob McDonnell said the governor worshipped the ground his wife walked on during the time she worked with them. Sarah Scarbrough, a family friend of the McDonnells, served as mansion director for much of the governor’s four-year term. She testified Thursday at the corruption trial of Bob and Maureen McDonnell. Her testimony that the McDonnells appeared to be in love undercuts an argument by the defense that the marriage had deteriorated to the point that the couple rarely communicated, much less engaged in a criminal conspiracy. The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement products.
MIAMI (AP) _ Federal forecasters say the Atlantic hurricane season will be even quieter than predicted, thanks to atmospheric and oceanic conditions suppressing storm formation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration still expects three to six hurricanes to form during the six-month season that peaks between mid-August and mid-October. Officials dropped the number of named storms to between seven and 12 in an updated hurricane season forecast issued Thursday. The forecast calls for zero to two of those hurricanes to be major storms with winds greater than 110 mph. Forecasters say there remains a 70 percent chance that the season will be less busy than normal. A normal year has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major storms. There have been two hurricanes so far this year, Arthur and Bertha.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The State Board of Elections has backed a new policy that would prohibit the use of some expired photo identification at polls. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports identification that had been expired for more than a year wouldn’t be allowed. The board’s 2-1 vote on Wednesday reverses a policy decision from June that would have allowed expired but otherwise valid forms of identification permitted under the a new voter ID law. Following concern from the mandate’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain, the board reconsidered. Initially, the board wanted to invalidate expired IDs entirely as an acceptable form of voter identification. But after reviewing public comments and concern by Attorney General Mark Herring, the alternative policy was adopted.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The former governor’s mansion director is next up on the prosecution’s long witness list in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. Sarah Scarbrough is scheduled to testify Thursday, the ninth day of the trial. Scarbrough was waiting in the wings when court was adjourned Wednesday. The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement products. Williams testified under immunity that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells only because he wanted their help. Defense lawyers have said Bob McDonnell will testify, but that won’t happen until much later in a trial that is expected to last at least until the end of the month.
HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) _ Numerous charges have been filed against a Virginia man who allegedly coerced a 13-year-old New Jersey resident into sending him sexually explicit images. Bergen County prosecutors say 44-year-old Brian Pettenger of Riner, Va. is charged with manufacturing child pornography, child endangerment and cyber harassment. He was being held Wednesday in Virginia on $250,000 cash bail, pending extradition proceedings. Prosecutors say Pettenger contacted and engaged in sexually explicit chat messages with the victim, and also sent and received images depicting child porn. During the chats, Pettenger allegedly threatened to post sexually explicit phots of the victim online unless the victim sent him certain sexually explicit photos. Pettenger allegedly obtained the original photos of the victim after he claimed to be a teenager and befriended the victim on social media.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia is allowing ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to operate here under a temporary agreement between the companies and the state. Officials had told the companies in June to cease operations in Virginia because they didn’t have the proper licenses. Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft use smartphone apps to dispatch drivers who use their own personal vehicles to give people rides. The drivers then share the fares they collect with the companies. Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring said Wednesday that the agreement will help ensure passenger safety, promote a level playing field for transportation providers and bring the companies into compliance with Virginia law. The companies can begin operating immediately. But they must meet various terms, including background checks for drivers and rigorous insurance requirements.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The woman who served as chief of staff to Virginia’s former first lady says she never saw any hint of a romantic relationship between her boss and a wealthy businessman. Mary-Shea Sutherland testified Wednesday in the public corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. They are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s dietary supplements. Defense attorneys have said Maureen McDonnell developed a crush on Williams as her marriage was crumbling. Sutherland said she saw no signs of that. To the contrary, she said, the McDonnells still seemed to be in love. She described a “lovely” Valentine’s Day poem McDonnell wrote his wife.
SANDY LEVEL, Va. (AP) _ Authorities have identified a body recovered from the Pigg River as that of a North Carolina man who had been reported missing. Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller says the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke confirmed that the body is that of 44-year-old Jason W. Fuller of Carrboro, North Carolina. Geller says foul play isn’t suspected. State and local police began searching for Fuller on Sunday night after his vehicle was found abandoned in a remote area of Pittsylvania County near the community of Sandy Level. Search teams found Fuller’s body around 6 p.m. Monday. Geller says the Carrboro Police Department had reported Fuller missing. He was last seen July 31.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ An FBI forensic computer analyst will be on the stand when the public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, resumes in Richmond. Tim Huff had just begun his testimony Tuesday when an alternate juror became ill, prompting U.S. District Judge James Spencer to adjourn court a few minutes early. Testimony resumes Wednesday. The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s dietary supplements products. Prosecutors presented evidence Tuesday that McDonnell concealed one $50,000 loan from Williams by listing the creditor as “medical services” on a state-required annual financial statement.