Federal prosecutors filed their first response to an appeal by former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell on Thursday. McDonnell was convicted of 11 counts of public corruption last September, relating from his relationship with a Richmond businessman who had given him over $177,000 in loans and gifts.
McDonnell contends that his conviction is invalid, that he never promised or performed any "official acts" in exchange for gifts and that his prosecution is a threat to democracy. Prosecutors' the one-hundred some page long filing argues that the court must uphold McDonnell's conviction.
Were Those Payments Really Bribery?
The controversy stems from McDonnell's interaction with Jonnie Williams Sr. Federal prosecutors' had alleged, and a jury agreed, that McDonnell illegally used his office to help Williams promote his dietary supplements in exchange for loans and gifts. Both McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were found guilty of public corruption and are appealing. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison, Maureen to a year and a half.
McDonnell contends that he was convicted based on a "boundless definition of bribery," where there was no quo in the quid pro quo. According to McDonnell, he cannot be guilty of bribery since he engaged in no official acts in exchange for the gifts. Since most of the money went through his wife and McDonnell claims the two were barely speaking, then the benefits granted to her could not have influenced his later actions.
His appeal has gained several high profile supporters, including former attorneys general, high profile lawyers, and law professors, The Washington Post reports.
Not Quiet, Say Prosecutors
Federal prosecutors responded by adamantly rejecting each of McDonnell's claims. They note that McDonnell offered to have cabinet-level officials attend meetings and host events in order to support Williams' business interests -- enough of an official act to constitute bribery in their opinion.
McDonnell's prosecution does not pose any threat to democracy or the rights of elected officials as McDonnell claims, the response argues. Rather, to allow a governor to accept money and gifts in secret "with corrupt intent and without good faith ... is manifestly wrong."
McDonnell is expected to respond by next Wednesday. Both sides will argue their case before the Fourth Circuit this may.