Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife Maureen convicted in corruption trial
RICHMOND, Va. (WJLA) - Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were found guilty in federal court Thursday of conspiring to use the gubernatorial office for personal financial gain.
Both Bob and Maureen bowed their heads and sobbed in court.
They could face two decades in prison on the 14-count corruption indictment when they are sentenced on Jan 6. Both were found guilty on most counts against them, including conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, obtaining property under color of official right, and making false statements.
"Historically sad day for Virginia. We've never had a governor convicted of a felony, and in the entire nation, there has never been a governor and first lady of a state convicted," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told WJLA.com.
"My prediction was the jury would find them guilty on at least some counts. It's a mild surprise that they have been convicted of so many. But anyone who followed the trial closely knew that things didn't look good for the McDonnells," he explained.
The couple left the courtroom separately after the verdicts were read and remained apart. Bob McDonnell left first and was mobbed by TV cameras before climbing into a waiting blue Mercedes.
"All I can say is that my trust remains in the Lord," he said quietly.
Maureen McDonnell came out later, hugging one of her daughters while weeping loudly.
For Bob McDonnell, on the short list a couple of years ago to become Mitt Romney’s running mate in his White House run, the verdicts underlined a stunning fall from grace that few could have foreseen during his mostly successful four-year run as Virginia’s CEO.
The jurors -- seven men and five women – announced their verdicts in a Richmond federal courthouse in front of Judge James R. Spencer after a month-long trial that exposed embarrassing, private details about the couple’s marriage and their financial portfolio.
Most of the jurors declined to speak to reporters as they left the courthouse through a back door. But one, Kathleen L. Carmody, told the Associated Press that "the facts spoke for themselves" in the case.
In all, the jury heard testimony from 67 witnesses, perhaps none more crucial than Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams, who provided the McDonnells with more than $177,000 in gifts and sweet-heart loans.
He contended the McDonnells knew exactly what his intentions were, namely, to do whatever it took to enhance the prospects for getting his dietary supplement studied by state health officials and state university researchers.
The McDonnells acknowledged Williams’ largesse but countered that Williams was a family friend and that no official acts were done on his behalf.
Too, Bob McDonnell’s defense team tried to hammer home the narrative that he and his wife couldn’t possibly have conspired to line their pockets, largely because they were barely on speaking terms and were in the throes of a failing marriage.
The defense vowed to appeal Thursday's verdicts.
Lawyer Henry Asbill said he was shocked, surprised and disappointed. He complained that prosecutors sought to criminalize routine political behavior, and said "I have no idea what the jury deliberated about."
Asbill added: "We are not deterred, this fight is a long way from over."
There was no celebration by prosecutors despite their court victory; they called it a sad time for everyone.
"This is a difficult and disappointing day for the commonwealth and its citizens. Public service frequently requires sacrifice and almost always requires financial sacrifice," said Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia.
Virginia has among the nation's weakest political ethics laws, and UVA's Sobato hoped the trial had finally illuminated the need for reform.
"The real lesson is Virginia needs far stronger ethics laws, including an independent ethics commission with subpoena power," he told WJLA.com. "Is the General Assembly listening and willing to act? It's an open secret that many members of both parties' legislative caucuses don't want to give us strong reforms."