The former governor of Virginia and his wife have been convicted on a string of corruption charges, after a federal jury found that they had accepted cash and gifts in return for political favours. Bob McDonnell, 60, once a rising star in the Republican political firmament, was convicted on 11 counts. His wife Maureen was found guilty of eight charges of corruption, and of obstruction of justice.
The couple were accused of accepting some $177,000 (£108,000) from local businessman Johnnie Williams, in the form of loans and gifts including a $5,000 bottle of Cognac, designer dresses, a Rolex, and the use of his white Ferrari. Though Virginia law did not prevent them receiving the gifts, prosecutors said the couple then used their political clout to promote Anatabloc, an anti-inflammatory dietary supplement manufactured by Williams's firm, Star Scientific.
In 2012, the McDonnells hosted a luncheon to promote Anatabloc at the governor's mansion, and also allowed Mr Williams to influence the guest list at another reception for healthcare bosses. Mr McDonnell arranged meetings between Mr Williams and some state officials. In one instance, the then-governor sent an email to an aide about Anatabloc six minutes after speaking to Mr Williams about a $50,000 loan. Prosecutors said this demonstrated a clear and corrupt connection between Mr Williams's largesse and the McDonnells' support of his product.
The couple, who have five children, offered an unlikely defence, claiming they could not have engaged in the alleged conspiracy because the apparently perfect marriage they presented while in office had in fact been a sham, and Maureen McDonnell “hated” her husband. Their relationship was picked apart over dozens of hours of invasive testimony, which even included hints of an alleged affair between Mrs McDonnell and Mr Williams, whom Mrs McDonnell texted shortly after a minor earthquake in 2011, saying: “I just felt the earth move and I wasn't having sex!!!!”
Mr McDonnell reportedly broke down in tears as the verdicts were read, in a Richmond courthouse mere yards from the governor's mansion that he and his wife occupied until he left office in January 2014. Once tipped as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, Mr McDonnell was chosen to deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in 2010. The office of Virginia governor was once occupied by Thomas Jefferson; Mr McDonnell is its first holder ever to be convicted of a crime.
Sentencing for the couple was set for 6 January, 2015.Reuse content