The saga of disgraced former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell came to some kind of resolution today as he was sentenced to two years in prison, less than what prosecutors wanted.
McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged last year with public corruption for taking $177,000 in gifts while McDonnell was governor. The trial turned from a simple bribery case into a sideshow that placed the McDonnell's allegedly troubled marriage in the spotlight.
How Can We Conspire When We Hate Each Other?
The defense theory of the case tried to knock out the conspiracy charges by portraying the McDonnells' marriage in such a shambles that they barely spoke to one another during the period when the bribery was going on, meaning they couldn't have conspired. They tried to bolster this with evidence that Maureen had a "crush" on Johnnie Williams, the key benefactor of Bob's corruption and also one of the state's witnesses. The defense also insisted that Maureen's crush on Williams is what led McDonnell to use his public power to help Williams' dietary supplement company.
No talking, no conspiracy, see? Of course, there's the little bit of the vacations they took together during that time, but just ignore those. Please?
I guess not. In September, a jury convicted Bob McDonnell of 11 out of 14 counts, and Maureen of nine out of 14.
A Light Touch
The defense thought that no prison and 6,000 hours of community service (that's three years of 40-hour workweeks, for those of you playing along at home) was enough. McDonnell had "suffered tremendously" already, given the bad publicity and the end of his marriage and political career. McDonnell's sentencing memorandum included 440 letters from friends and former staffers, urging leniency, along with a "winding narrative" of his life that emphasized his military service.
The prosecution, on the other hand, thought 10 to 12 years was an ideal punishment for a person who knowingly used the power of his office to secure gifts for himself. (True to form, federal prosecutors dangled a three-year compromise in front of McDonnell if he pleaded guilty, then ratcheted the penalty to the max after his conviction.)
The light sentence is unusual in the Eastern District of Virginia, where judges impose sentences within the probation department's guideline range 70 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. It's even out of sorts for Judge James Spencer, who earlier in the case had said he thought six to eight years was appropriate.
McDonnell was ordered to report to prison February 9. Maureen is scheduled to be sentenced February 20.