The charges stemmed from granting favors to a wealthy Virginia businessman in exchange for more than $177,000 worth of lavish gifts, vacations, and loans. The pair was acquitted of bank fraud charges.
Leaving court today, McDonnell told reporters, ”All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord." McDonnell’s defense attorney Henry “Hank” Asbill told the swarm of reporters they would appeal the verdict.
Over the five-week trial jurors heard about the eye-popping gifts Richmond businessman Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams gave the McDonnells, including a $20,000 New York City shopping spree for the then-first lady which included stops at tony stores Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, and Bergdorf Goodman. Williams spent thousands on vacations for the McDonnells, including a resort on Cape Cod and letting them stay at his lake house vacation home where he made sure his Ferrari was there so the McDonnells could drive it around town. Jurors saw several photos of the then-governor, who usually was driven around by his security detail, driving the luxury car.
Williams also bought McDonnell a Rolex watch with the words “71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on the back. McDonnell testified his wife gave him the $6,000 timepiece as a Christmas gift and he did not know it was paid for by Williams. Williams paid for gifts for family members including $15,000 for the catering for one daughter’s wedding and a $10,000 wedding gift for another. He took McDonnell on expensive golf outings and bought a set of golf clubs for his son. Jurors heard about the $120,000 in loans Williams gave the McDonnells.
Much of the testimony that came from the defense side focused on the alleged breakdown in the McDonnells’ marriage, stressing the two could not have conspired in the quid pro quo scheme because they were barely speaking. The defense also said Maureen McDonnell had a “crush” on Williams. Jurors heard intimate details of their marriage problems, including Maureen McDonnell’s habit of yelling at staff, with some testifying they believed she had mental problems. A private letter McDonnell wrote to his wife was read in court. The letter, which went unanswered by Maureen McDonnell, said “I am lonely sometimes.”
McDonnell was already the first governor in Virginia history to be charged with a crime and now is the first ever to be convicted of one.
Sentencing is set for January 6 at 10 a.m. The couple faces mandatory minimum prison sentences, but the maximum sentence for each corruption charge is 20 years. During the next phase of sentencing, family members and friends will likely contact the judge, traditionally by mail, to plead for leniency for the former first couple of Virginia.
The current governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, released a statement on the historic verdict: “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.
“Dorothy and I will continue to pray for the McDonnell family and for everyone who was affected by this trial,” McAuliffe wrote.