A federal jury in Richmond, Va., has found former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell guilty on 11 of 14 charges in his corruption trial. His wife, Maureen, was found guilty on nine of 14 charges, including obstruction of justice.
Our partners at member station WAMU report that the McDonnells were found guilty “of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud for accepting gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams,” the owner of Star Scientific, a nutritional supplement company.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the McDonnells sobbed openly, but quietly as the verdicts were read. Their family members and supporters also wept, the newspaper reported. WAMU added that the former governor’s attorney said the verdict will be appealed.
In a statement, the U.S. Justice Department said the “convictions should send a message that corruption in any form, at any level of government, will not be tolerated.”
The jury of seven men and five women heard testimony from 67 witnesses and deliberated over three days before arriving at today’s decision. Sentencing has been set for Jan. 6, 2015.
The Washington Post has a graphic that illustrates the charges against the McDonnells and the verdict.
The trial has been a humiliating blow for the onetime rising GOP star who was elected governor in 2009 and just a few years ago was considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney.
Shortly after he left office in January, McDonnell and his wife were accused of taking more than $165,000 worth of gifts and loans from Williams.
Attorneys for the McDonnells argued that as a result of the couple’s disintegrating marriage, Maureen McDonnell craved attention and developed a crush on the Star Scientific owner, who testified that the couple accepted and solicited gifts from him.
“Well, the former governor, when he ran for governor, represented his family as essentially the Cleavers — bustling and wholesome,” Richmond Times-Dispatch columnistJeff Schapiro told All Things Considered. “And five years later, now running for his life, his lawyers are depicting the McDonnells as the Louds — bitter and dysfunctional.”
On the day he was indicted, Bob McDonnell told reporters, “I have apologized for my poor judgment, and I accept full responsibility for accepting these legal gifts and loans. However, I repeat again, emphatically, that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believe was his personal friendship and his generosity.”
McDonnell said the loans had been “repaid with interest” and the gifts had been returned. He also has said that despite appearances of impropriety, there was no quid pro quo — that part of the role of governor is to support the state’s businesses.
And Schapiro said there’s some truth that this could be considered business as usual in Virginia.
“One wonders, given Virginia’s long tradition of a business-friendly government, if perhaps some of these things took place and no one really noticed,” Schapiro said. “Because for a long time, Virginia’s government, like so many Southern governments, was controlled by a handful of like-minded conservative white guys. They looked out for business; business financed the political organization; the legislator came through with friendly laws and light regulation. This has been the pattern in the commonwealth for a long, long time.”
McDonnell’s status as a GOP luminary was cemented when he was chosen to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2010.
But the corruption scandal that erupted in McDonnell’s final months as governor killed what was left of his political career, says Virginia politics expert Larry Sabato.