There is something incredibly awkward about inviting an indicted former Virginia governor to teach students lessons in good government. That is exactly what Liberty University in Lynchburg did by hiring former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and having him teach classes at its Helms School of Government.
The school announced McDonnell's employment this week, but declined to name the classes he is teaching or his salary. The former governor has been in the classroom for over a month, school officials told the local newspaper. McDonnell was indicted in January on 14 counts of corruption while serving as governor of the commonwealth involving more than $165,000 in contributions he (and his family) received from a supporter in what prosecutors allege was for support of a nutritional product. McDonnell plead not guilty to all charges and is presently scheduled to go to trial in July.
Regardless of how the case is ultimately disposed, McDonnell is an unusual candidate to be teaching students lessons in government. His administration of the commonwealth is generally viewed positively by most political science scholars, but was tarnished months before leaving office by allegations of corruption that ultimately led to his indictment along with his wife on more than 14 specific counts. Liberty University said McDonnell has been well-received by the student body and has been a long time supporter of the university, according to published reports by the News and Advance. University officials did not return calls for comment for this story.
Governors often take high profile positions after leaving office, even when they depart in disgrace. Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojovich made public speeches, traveled extensively and even appeared on 'Celebrity Apprentice' with Donald Trump all while under federal indictment. Blagojovich was eventually convicted in federal court and presently is serving his sentence in a federal correctional institution in Colorado.
McDonnell deserves a presumption of innocence as he heads into court to allow prosecutors to prove their case. He must receive a fair and open trial to examine all the evidence. This is how it should be. In reality, that is not how the federal court system works. The overwhelming number of federal indictments never go to trial and are resolved with a plea bargain that will include some mandatory minimum prison sentence.
With luck, McDonnell will be able to continue teaching students about how government works and can even eventually explain how the judicial system works from up close and personal experience.