WASHINGTON, September 4, 2014 — The soap-opera trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen has ended with multiple guilty verdicts.
The case was at times so strange that it would have seemed more appropriate as a Hollywood movie, set anywhere but refined Virginia.
The charges against the former governor and his wife were based on a relationship they had with Jonnie Williams, an inventor who believed he had found a new weight loss pill made out of irradiated tobacco products.
Williams was looking for research from Virginia universities or support from the Virginia tobacco industry and believed the McDonnell’s would be able to make those things happen.
The indictment against the former governor and first lady charged that they provided favors in an official capacity for Williams in exchange for personal financial gain.
Jonnie Williams avoided charges by testifying against Bob and Maureen McDonnell.
McDonnell who was on the short list of possible running mates with Mitt Romney, seemed to be confident that if he took the stand and laid bare his life, that he would be found not guilty. But that is not the way it turned out.
In fact, before the trial began, Bob McDonnell was offered a plea agreement where he would plead guilty on one count and his wife Maureen would go free. Bob McDonnell refused that offer and today he was found guilty on all 11 corruption counts. Maureen was found guilty on eight counts.
By refusing the plea deal, the McDonnell’s are now facing a possibility of 30 years in prison and massive fines. In deciding to go forward with the trial, the McDonnells’ private life became public fodder.
The trial revealed that the couple was separated and living lives completely apart. When McDonnell was on the stand, he said that he lived with a priest for a time because he felt like he could not go home. During witness testimony, Maureen McDonnell was called a “nut bag” and there were many implications of her being “money grubbing” as well as having a crush on Jonnie Williams. The testimony made the former first lady seem more than a bit strange.
The 7-man, 5-woman jury reached a verdict after three days of deliberation, a much shorter period of time than the legal experts had been predicting.
Before the verdicts were read, the McDonnell children, who were sitting in a row behind their parents, had their heads bent in prayer.
The counts started being read at 2:55 p.m. and lasted eight minutes.
When the first count was read as guilty, the McDonnell children broke into tears.
Bob McDonnell himself put his head in his hands and started to cry with the first count. With each subsequent guilty verdict, Bob McDonnell broke down a little bit more and the crying became sobs.
Maureen McDonnell had tears but was the most stoic out of the entire family.
Bob McDonnell was found not guilty on the two counts of bank fraud.
After the courtroom was dismissed, the former governor and his wife left the courthouse together for the first time since the 27-day trial began.
Every day, there was a perfectly choreographed arrival and departure schedule for Bob and Maureen, always about ten minutes apart. It was as if the McDonnells wanted to show that they were in fact living separate lives.
When leaving the courthouse, Bob McDonnell stated, “I put my trust in the Lord.”
The defense argued that a crime could only be committed if an elected person gives preferential treatment in an official capacity, and since Maureen McDonnell was never elected to any position, what she did was not a crime. They argued that she had only exchanged any favors or goods because she was lonely and in love with Williams. His attorneys explained that anything Bob McDonnell did for Williams was the same he did for other corporations in Virginia.
The jury found McDonnell guilty based on the judge’s instruction that even if McDonnell only performed routine acts for Jonnie Williams, he can still be found guilty if there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of a bribe,
Additional jury instructions were that the McDonnells must have knowingly and deliberately entered a corrupt agreement in order to be found guilty of conspiracy alleged in counts one through 11. Bob McDonnell was found guilty on all of these counts.
An appeal will now be filed by the attorneys for both Maureen and Bob McDonnell.
Before the appeal can be filed, the lawyers must pore over the entire court deliberations to determine what they can base that appeal on. A person cannot appeal a case just because they do not like the verdict; they have to have a complaint of unfair or improper proceedings.
The sentencing date of January 6, 2015 at 10 am will most likely occur before the appeals are filed so everyone will know what the former governor and first lady are facing in terms of jail time.
The jurors have declined to speak publically about the case at this time.
Bob and Maureen McDonnell are now convicted felons and will need to be in touch with their probation officers while they await their appeals. Since their crimes were not violent ones, they will most likely be allowed to remain free until those appeals take place.