Supreme Court releases audio from McDonnell hearing

Posted at 3:47 PM, Apr 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-29 23:35:48-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Supreme Court released the audio on Friday afternoon of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's hearing.

Several justices expressed skepticism about the federal government's case during Wednesday's hearing.

McDonnell is challenging his 2014 conviction on federal corruption charges. Prosecutors say he used his official role as governor to promote the company of a wealthy businessman named Jonnie Williams. McDonnell's lawyers say prosecutors interpreted the laws too broadly and didn't properly instruct the jury on the definition of an official act.

Justice Stephen Breyer was most vocal during the hearing, saying the prosecution's argument is too vague. "Political figures will not know what they're supposed to do and what they're not supposed to do," he said. "It puts at risk behavior that is common."

Michael Dreeben, deputy solicitor general, said overturning the conviction could create a "recipe for corruption" and send the wrong message. Breyer had a strong response. "I'm not in the business of sending a message in a case like this," he said. "I'm in the business of figuring out the structure of the government and that's part of separation of power."

Breyer also warned of "over-zealous" prosecutors and the power they would have over government officials.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor heavily questioned McDonnell's attorney, saying university officials felt pressured to undergo a study on behalf of the Williams. "What do we do with the fact that they perceived he was trying to influence them?"

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June.