Former Virginia governor, Robert F. McDonnell, and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, were convicted last week of trading their political influence for loans and gifts. Mr. McDonnell was pronounced guilty on 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion, while his wife was convicted of 9 counts.
Mr. McDonnell was a rising political star and a much talked-about potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016. The convictions were secured after a five week trial in Federal Court in Virginia.
The case involved the misuse of state resources for the benefit of their one-time friend and businessman, Jonnie Williams. In exchange for helping Williams promote his company Star Scientific and its’ dietary supplement Anatabloc, it was alleged the McDonnells were provided with cash and gifts totaling $177,000.
Williams testified against the McDonnells under a grant of immunity. He recounted gifts including” a $50,000 low interest loan, a $20,000 New York City shopping spree, a $6,000 engraved Rolex watch, $15,000 for catering the McDonnells daughter’s wedding, as well as a number of flights on private planes and golf outings.
A jury deliberated for two days before deciding that the gifts were a direct quid pro quo for the McDonnell’s influence.
McDonnell’s defense argued that he offered Williams’s company mere political courtesies. The former governor stated at trial that he had given Williams, “bare, basic, routine access to government and nothing more.”
Robert McDonnell has said publically that he was not aware of all the gifts his family accepted from Williams in 2011 and 2012. His defense argued that the McDonnells’ marriage was in shambles, and that Mrs. McDonnell was smitten with the wealthy business executive. They argued that she effectively kept Mr. McDonnell in the dark about the money and gifts she received from Mr. Williams.
Just recently, it came to light that Federal authorities had proposed a plea bargain to Governor McDonnell that included admitting guilt to one count of felony fraud, but without admitting any corruption in office. His wife could have avoided charges altogether under the proposed deal. That offer also required Mr. McDonnell to give up his license practice law. The governor rejected that offer.
Mr. McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced on January 6, 2015.