Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell along with his wife were convicted Thursday on a handful of corruption charges. The trial had the makings of a Hollywood soap opera episode focusing on a failing marriage. The trial lasted five weeks and ended following three days of jury deliberations.
The former governor was found guilty on 11 of 13 federal charges filed against him, his wife on nine of 13 charges filed against her. The indictment carried 14 total charges. . Sentencing is scheduled for January 6. Both the Governor and his wife face up to 30 years in prison.
McDonnell was once a onetime political star who held the same office as American founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. His name was passed around during discussions of Mitt Romney’s running mate. Mitt Romney attended the trial, viewing from a witness waiting room.
McDonnell was charged with doing favors for wealthy vitamin executive in exchange for gifts, loans and favors totaling more than $165,000. They also were charged with submitting fraudulent bank loan applications, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with one count of obstruction. The former governor testified that he provided nothing more than political courtesies to Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. Williams received immunity to testify against the McDonnells. He said he showered the couple with gifts, trips and arranged loans for the powerful couple because he wanted the governor’s office to promote his company’s tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement.
The former Governor testified describing the difficulties in his marriage. He claimed he got in the habit of working late to avoid going home and dealing with his wife. He moved out of the family home and into the rectory of a Catholic church for the duration of the trial for much the same reason. In addition, he claimed to be “hurt” to learn that Williams and his wife exchanged 950 phone calls and text messages; though he said he did not believe their relationship was sexual.
The McDonnell’s argued against claims they used the office of the governor for personal gain, claiming they had a “broken down” marriage and were “barely on speaking terms.” The McDonnell’s oldest daughter, Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky, testified during the trial, claiming her mother experienced “frustration, loneliness and anger sometimes” and had “barely any communication” with her husband. Zubowsky claimed her mother had developed “a mild obsession” with Williams.
Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia released the following statement following the verdict:
We have a long way to go to restore the public’s trust after this embarrassing and difficult period for the Commonwealth of Virginia. If there was somehow still any doubt, it should be crystal clear that the people of Virginia deserve real ethics reform that will turn off the spigot of gifts, tickets, and trips that opens the door to abuse and undermines public confidence in our government. That’s why on the day I was sworn in I implemented a strict gift ban and ethics policy for the Office of the Attorney General. It applies to me, my family, and employees and it says no gifts worth $25 or more, no more than $100 from any person in a year, and it doesn’t distinguish between tangible and intangible gifts. In the upcoming legislative session, I hope the General Assembly will move much closer to the gift bans that Governor McAuliffe and I have implemented.
The former first lady did not testify in her own defense. The Justice Department hailed the verdict as a victory, which was certainly a welcome sign that the agency can successfully secure a high-profile conviction.