McDonnell Corruption Trial Day 28: McDonnell and Wife Found Guilty on Corruption Charges
Bob and Maureen McDonnell have been convicted of corruption in a case that accused them of conspiring to use his office to promote a businessman's product in exchange for gifts.
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have been convicted in a public corruption case that accused them of conspiring to use his office to promote a businessman's product in exchange for gifts. A federal jury in Richmond returned the verdict Thursday after a five-week trial and deliberating for three days.
The McDonnells were charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's nutritional supplements. The gifts included a shopping spree in New York City, a Rolex, wedding catering, rides on Williams' jet, golf outings, and vacations.
Bob McDonnell was convicted on 11 of the 13 counts he faced; Maureen McDonnell was convicted on nine of the 13 counts she faced. Both bowed their heads and wept as a chorus of "guilty" came from the court clerk.
Bob McDonnell was found not guilty on counts 12 and 13, Maureen was found not guilty on counts 4, 9, 11, and 13. Here are the allegations involved in each count:
Count 1: Accused the McDonnells of conspiracy, specifically of conspiring to defraud the voters of Virginia of the honest services they were due from the governor's office. It alleged that McDonnell and the governor's office provided "favorable official action" for Star Scientific as opportunities arose, including arranging meetings for Star Scientific and Jonnie Williams with state officials, and hosting an event at the governor's mansion designed to encourage university researchers to conduct studies on the active ingredient in Star's tobacco-based health supplement, Anatabloc. In exchange, the McDonnells allegedly enriched themselves by receiving more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 2: Accused the McDonnells of committing honest services fraud, not just conspiring to do so. It relates specifically to a $15,000 check from the Williams-controlled Starwood Trust to a catering company in May 2011 that paid costs associated with the wedding of the McDonnells' daughter Cailin. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 3: Accused the McDonnells of honest services fraud and relates specifically to a $50,000 loan check in March 2012 from Williams, via Starwood Trust, to MoBo Real Estate Partners, a joint venture between Bob McDonnell and his sister in which they rented out vacation homes in Virginia Beach. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 4: Accused the McDonnells of honest services fraud and relates to a second loan check for $20,000 in May 2012 from Starwood to MoBo. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Not Guilty.
Count 5: Accused the McDonnells of conspiring to obtain property under color of official right, meaning they used the governor's office to obtain things that McDonnell was not due to receive as governor. Like the other conspiracy count, it is not linked to a specific item the McDonnells received. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 6: Accused the McDonnells of obtaining property under color of official right, and relates to a $50,000 loan from Williams, via Starwood Trust, to Maureen McDonnell in May 2011. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 7: Accused the McDonnells of obtaining property under color of official right and relates to the $15,000 catering check Williams wrote, via Starwood, for Cailin McDonnell's wedding. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 8: Accused the McDonnells of obtaining property under color of official right and relates to $2,380 in greens fees, food and merchandise from a golf outing that Bob McDonnell, his two sons, and a future son-in-law took at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot on Williams' tab. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 9: Accused the McDonnells of obtaining property under color of official right and relates to $1,424 in greens fees, caddie fees, dining expenses and merchandise at Kinloch paid for by Williams. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Not Guilty.
Count 10: Accused the McDonnells of obtaining property under color of official right and relates to a $50,000 loan from Williams, via Starwood Trust, to MoBo. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Count 11: Accused the McDonnells of obtaining property under color of official right and relates to the $20,000 loan from Williams, via Starwood Trust, to MoBo. Verdicts: Bob McDonnell - Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Not Guilty.
Count 12: Accused Bob McDonnell, not his wife, of making a false statement to a financial institution by failing to disclose a $50,000 loan from Williams on a loan application to TowneBank. Verdict: Bob McDonnell - Not Guilty.
Count 13: Accused the McDonnells of making a false statement to a financial institution by failing to disclose the $120,000 in loans they received from Jonnie Williams on a loan application to Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Verdict: Bob McDonnell - Not Guilty; Maureen McDonnell - Not Guilty.
Count 14: Accused Maureen McDonnell, not her husband, of obstructing a federal grand jury by returning to Williams the clothing he had purchased for her in New York City, along with a handwritten note suggesting they had a previous agreement that she would return the apparel so Williams could give it to his daughters or to charity. Verdict: Maureen McDonnell - Guilty.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 6, 2015 at 10 a.m. An appeal is expected. "We're very disappointed but we're not deterred. This fight is a long way from over,” said Bob McDonnell's defense attorney Hank Asbill.
"I think this case sends an important message. The FBI will engage and engage vigorously to any credible allegation of corruption. Public corruption is the FBI's top criminal investigation priority and cases like this are extremely important to our agency and the commonwealth," said FBI Special Agent David Hulser.
"This is a difficult and disappointing day for the commonwealth and its citizens. Public service frequently requires sacrifice and almost always requires financial sacrifice. When public officials turn to financial gain in exchange for official acts, we have little choice but to prosecute the case," said U.S. Attorney Dana Boente.
This case marked the first time in U.S. history that a governor and his wife were both charged with corruption. Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia Center for Politics says this is a lesson for other politicians. "This is, first of all, a cautionary tale for all politicians that you cannot get addicted to loans and gifts and bling. That's not what you're there for and when you compromise your office this is what can result," he stated.
The case has some calling for ethics reform when it comes to gifts to those holding public office. Attorney General Mark Herring's statement after the verdict said, in part, "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."
Political analyst Bob Holsworth says he feels, given the jury's decision, the McDonnells made a big mistake when they passed up a plea deal. "Bob McDonnell made the most colossal misjudgment of his lifetime when he decided to go to trial. Bob McDonnell had the opportunity months ago to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud. Ironically, he was found innocent on that," he said.
NBC29 legal analyst Lloyd Snook says there's a very real possibility the former first couple could be facing a decade behind bars. "The sentencing guidelines, if the judge finds that the roughly $170,00 in gifts was the amount that was proven, then you'd be looking, just under the sentencing guidelines, at roughly 9 to 10 to 11 years. Now, the judge doesn't have to follow the guidelines. They're not mandatory," he said.
He also feels there were key pieces of evidence that led the jury to its decision. "I think the prosecution clearly felt that images like the picture of Bob driving a Ferrari, the picture of the Rolex watch - those were things that jurors can kind of understand that that's not what they expect their governor to be doing. They expect their governor, perhaps, to plug a Virginia industry. They don't expect their governor to get a Rolex watch out of it," Snook stated.
The couple left the courtroom separately and remained apart. Bob McDonnell left first and walked into a witness waiting room. Maureen McDonnell came out later, hugging one of her daughters while weeping loudly. She went into a separate waiting room and left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
As he was leaving, Bob McDonnell stated "All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Governor Terry McAuliffe Statement on the verdict: “I am deeply saddened by the events of the trial that ended in today's verdict, and the impact it has had on our Commonwealth's reputation for honesty and clean government. Dorothy and I will continue to pray for the McDonnell family and for everyone who was affected by this trial.”
Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued the following statement on 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."
Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell issued the following statement: "This is a sad day for Virginia. I have known Bob McDonnell for a long time and consider him a very good friend of mine. He spent 38 years in public service and his record as Governor speaks for itself. I believe in the justice system and I am not going second guess the jury. The jury rendered its verdict and the McDonnells have an opportunity to appeal. That's the way the system works. I am proud to call Bob McDonnell my friend and I pray for him and his family during this difficult time.”
Statement by Delegate David J. Toscano on the McDonnell Verdicts: "Whatever one thinks about the actions of the former Governor and First Lady, you cannot help but be saddened by what has happened to them and to our Commonwealth. The decision today closes a depressing chapter in Virginia history. The jury carefully considered the evidence and has now spoken. With its verdict, it sends a clear message that public officials are not above the law and that those of us who have the honor to serve have a special responsibility to keep the public trust. I hope this verdict will improve the prospects of enacting further ethics and campaign finance reform in the Commonwealth."
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on today's verdicts: "The jury has spoken. This is a sad day for Virginia. I have known and worked with Bob McDonnell for more than 20 years, and my thoughts today are with Bob, Maureen, and their children. I urge all Virginians to keep the McDonnell family in their prayers."