Trials & Litigation

Ex-governor of Virginia and wife found guilty on most counts in federal corruption case

A former Virginia attorney general and Republican governor who was once considered a U.S. presidential prospect is now the first former governor in state history to be convicted of a felony.

Following a high-profile five-week public corruption trial, Robert F. “Bob” McDonnell and his wife were convicted Thursday on most of the charges they faced in a federal conspiracy and bribery case. Both sobbed, along with family and friends, as the verdicts were read, the Associated Press and the Richmond Times-Dispatch report.

Accused of accepting loans, gifts and vacation perks from the CEO of a Virginia-based dietary supplement company in exchange for favorable treatment that helped promote the company, McDonnell reportedly turned down a plea bargain that would have spared his wife and required him to plead guilty to a single felony fraud count.

The trial made headlines in part because it focused on a strategy of portraying the couple as estranged and depicting Maureen McDonnell as erratic, prone to angry outbursts and preyed upon emotionally by former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who testified under an immunity grant, according to the Associated Press and USA Today. Bob McDonnell testified in his own defense, but his wife did not testify.

Prosecutors said the two were heavily in debt and needed the money and gifts they got from Williams and his company to cover personal expenses and maintain their lifestyle.

Defense lawyers said their clients perhaps could have made better decisions, but did nothing illegal and pointed out that Maureen McDonnell is not an elected public official, the AP reported.

“You’re being asked to render a legal verdict, not a moral verdict,” attorney Henry Asbill, who represents Bob McDonnell, told the jury during closing arguments. “Jonnie didn’t get anything. Nothing. This case is all ‘quid,’ no ‘quo.’”

See also: “‘Mudslinging’ motions by McDonnell lawyers compare prosecutors to Caligula” “‘For the sanctity of the trees,’ limit case filings, federal judge tells ex-governor’s lawyers”

Bloomberg: “Virginia First Lady’s Behavior Worried Staff: Ex-Aide “

New York Times (req. req.): “Sister and Wife of Ex-Governor Become Focus in Virginia Trial”

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