CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber
A jury on Thursday found former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) and his wife guilty on multiple counts of conspiracy and honest services wire fraud. The pair were indicted in January on 14 federal counts over their role in a gift scandal. The indictments centered around tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts received by the couple from a wealthy tobacco executive.
In what Republican state legislator Bob Marshall called the “type of activity” that “undermines public confidence,” McDonnell and his family allegedly accepted more than $135,000 in gifts and/or loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the then-CEO of Star Scientific Inc. The McDonnells then helped promote the scientifically-unproven dietary supplements line made by the controversial tobacco company-turned-supplements manufacturer. While Virginia’s lax gifts law allows elected officials to accept unlimited gifts — even from lobbyists and those with business before the state — McDonnell was accused of failing to fully disclose what he and his wife received.
The gifts included a silver Rolex watch, golf clubs, Louis Vitton shoes, and $15,000 to help pay for the McDonnells’ daughter’s wedding. According to the indictment, the former governor and his wife had conspired to commit wire fraud to accept bribes, knowingly made false statements on loan applications to avoid reporting the Williams loans, and obstructed justice. In July, then-Gov. McDonnell apologized for the “embarrassment” he and his family caused to Virginia and announced that he had repaid the roughly $120,000 in loans from Williams — loans he had previously insisted were not improper. He later promised to return all the gifts the family had received.
In the trial, the defense denied any criminal wrongdoing and argued that Williams got nothing in exchange for his generousity. Defense attorneys highlighted the McDonnell’s marital problems and argued that their marriage was far too dysfunctional for the two to have conspired, as alleged.