Bob and Maureen McDonnell found guilty of majority of charges

Posted at 2:30 PM, Sep 04, 2014

A former rising star in the Republican Party, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was red-faced and sobbing Thursday after a jury convicted him and his wife on multiple counts related to influence-peddling while he was in office.

After more than a month of sometimes soul-baring testimony, the federal jury issued guilty verdicts on 11 counts against McDonnell, while clearing him on two others. His wife, Maureen, was convicted on nine while cleared on four.

Count 1: Conspiracy to Commit Honest-Services Wire Fraud GUILTY GUILTY
Count 2: Honest-Services Wire Fraud GUILTY GUILTY
Count 3: Honest-Services Wire Fraud GUILTY GUILTY
Count 4: Honest-Services Wire Fraud GUILTY NOT GUILTY
Count 5: Conspiracy to Obtain Property under Color of Official Right GUILTY GUILTY
Count 6: Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right GUILTY GUILTY
Count 7: Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right GUILTY GUILTY
Count 8: Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right GUILTY GUILTY
Count 9: Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right GUILTY NOT GUILTY
Count 10: Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right GUILTY GUILTY
Count 11: Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right GUILTY NOT GUILTY
Count 12: False Statements NOT GUILTY NOT CHARGED
Count 13: False Statements NOT GUILTY NOT GUILTY
Count 14: Obstruction of an Official Proceeding NOT CHARGED GUILTY

The charges involved gifts the couple received from a businessman, including a Rolex watch, a $15,000 check for their daughter's wedding and other items that are legal under Virginia law. Prosecutors had to prove such gifts were accepted with corrupt intent.

Conspiracy, wire fraud, influence peddling

Both McDonnells were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the citizens of Virginia, wire fraud, conspiracy and influence-peddling. Mrs. McDonnell also was convicted on one count of obstruction.

The jury cleared them both of false statement charges, and cleared Mrs. McDonnell on one of the wire fraud counts and two of the influence-peddling counts.

As the guilty verdicts came in, the former first couple wept openly in the Richmond courtroom.

Judgment day

McDonnell, whose name came up as a possible running mate for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, now faces the likelihood of prison time. Sentencing was set for January 6.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said the McDonnells "turned public service into a money-making enterprise."

"The former governor was elected to serve the people of Virginia, but his corrupt actions instead betrayed them," Caldwell said. "Today's convictions should send a message that corruption in any form, at any level of government, will not be tolerated."

'Difficult, disappointing day' for Virginia

U.S. Attorney Dana Boente, whose office led the prosecution, called it "a difficult, disappointing day for the Commonwealth."

"When public officials turn to financial gain for official actions, we have little choice but to prosecute the case," he said.

Lawyers for the McDonnells indicated they intend to appeal.

While the charges carry potential sentences of years in prison, legal experts said they don't expect the maximum penalties to be applied. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said he expected McDonnell to get about a year in prison, while his wife could get probation.

Jury deliberations began Tuesday and lasted more than 17 hours over three days in the case that had all the elements of a soap opera: a broken marriage, alleged influence peddling and courtroom drama.

Broken marriage

Throughout the trial, McDonnell and his wife arrived and left the courthouse separately in a display at the heart of their defense.

The pair pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of fraud, making false statements and obstruction. They were indicted in January after McDonnell left office following the lone term allowed under Virginia law.

Prosecutors alleged the McDonnells accepted gifts with a combined value of more than $140,000 from Jonnie Williams, a nutritional supplement executive, in exchange for promoting his company using the power and the trappings of the governor's office.

The gifts included designer clothes, a Rolex watch, a golf bag, iPhones and a painting, according to the indictment and evidence presented at the trial.

Their defense? The 38-year marriage was so broken that the McDonnells barely spoke to each other, let alone conspired to peddle influence in the way alleged by the government.

During the trial, the prosecution showed the couple communicated by email and vacationed together.

Questionable judgment

McDonnell said he didn't commit any crime, though he acknowledged questionable judgment in accepting what he called the "personal generosity and friendship" of Williams.

Defense lawyers argued that Maureen McDonnell, seeking emotional attachment because of her loveless marriage, developed what they described as a kind of schoolgirl crush on Williams and relished the attention and gifts from him.

The question was whether she or her husband reciprocated by promoting Williams' business in government circles.

Witnesses included some of the family's five grown children, former staff members of the governor and others close to the state's first family.

The McDonnells tried to get their cases separated, but lost that bid.

Click here for our FULL COVERAGE of the entire McDonnell trial