McDonnell found guilty in corruption trial

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Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have been found guilty of federal corruption charges.

McDonnell, a Republican, was accused by federal prosecutors of using his office to benefit Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for more than $177,000 in gifts and loans.

A jury of seven men and five women found the former governor guilty on 11 corruption counts, while his wife was convicted on eight plus one count of obstruction of justice.

The verdict followed three days of deliberation. The trial, held in Richmond, began July 28.

McDonnell is the first governor in the commonwealth’s history to be convicted of a crime. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6.

In 2012, McDonnell was considered as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin eventually was picked as the vice presidential candidate.

McDonnell’s defense maintained that Williams received nothing in return for gifts and loans to the former first family.

Defense attorneys said that Williams’ Glen Allen-based company, Star Scientific Inc., was treated by the McDonnell administration as it would any Virginia company.

Star Scientific, now based in Sarasota, Fla. and known as  Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, makes a dietary supplement called Anatabloc, which claims to reduce inflammation.

Rock Creek voluntarily suspended sales of Anatabloc last month as it tried to resolve regulatory issues with the Food and Drug Administation unrelated to the McDonnell trial.

Williams, who stepped down as CEO of Star Scientific at the end of 2013, testified against the McDonnells during the trial under immunity from federal prosecution.

The McDonnells were charged in a 14-count indictment in January.

Statements from Virginia political leaders poured in after the verdict was announced.

“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,” said Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“Dorothy and I will continue to pray for the McDonnell family and for everyone who was affected by this trial.” 

Republican House Speaker Bill Howell said,“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.”

Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, took aim at the commonwealth’s ethics laws in his statement. The General Assembly reformed the state’s lax standards for accepting gifts during the 2014 session, but the legislation has been criticized for providing many loopholes.

"We have a long way to go to restore the public's trust after this embarrassing and difficult period for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Herring said. “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.”

Sen. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, issued the following statement: “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.”

The charges against the McDonnells detail gifts and loans from Williams, including:

-a $15,000 check used to pay for catering at the Executive Mansion wedding reception for one of the McDonnells’ daughters,

-$70,000 in loans to a real estate company owned by the governor and his sister that managed beach rental property

-a golfing trip costing several thousand dollars to the Kinloch Golf Club in Goochland County.

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