The source characterized McDonnell’s decision as “throwing his wife under the bus.”
The McDonnell team asserted that they did not believe the Justice Department could get a conviction against McDonnell at trial based on the evidence they had, the source added.
The Washington Post first reported McDonnell’s rejection of the plea deal.
McDonnell, who left office earlier this month, and wife, Maureen, were indicted Tuesday on federal charges of accepting illegal gifts.
The McDonnells are allowed to remain free while they await trial. They were released Friday on their own recognizance.
The court date has been scheduled for July 28 and is expected to last five to six weeks.
The defense is asking for 10 days and the prosecution asked for 15.
The judge sternly lectured the McDonnells to remain clear of the media.
The McDonnells each face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted. The 14-count indictment, culminating a lengthy investigation of their relationship with a Virginia business executive, alleges fraud by a public official, false statements, and obstruction.
The gifts have been valued at a minimum of $140,000 in total included designer clothes, a Rolex watch, golf clubs, iPhones and a painting, according to a list of items included in the indictment.
Prior to the controversy, which began unfolding last year, McDonnell was considered a potential GOP presidential candidate.
The federal probe involved the relationship between the McDonnells and Jonnie Williams, the chief executive of a troubled nutritional supplement company, Star Scientific.
Authorities allege that Williams gave gifts and loans to the first family of Virginia, and that they promoted his company.
McDonnell admitted to poor judgment in a statement.
“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility,” he said.
“However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship,” he added.
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