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Bob and Maureen McDonnell Found Guilty on Corruption Charges

The former governor of Virginia and his wife were charged in January on 14 counts of taking gifts from the CEO of a nutritional supplement manufacturer.
Bob McDonnell, as seen in Johnnie R. Williams's Ferrari. Photograph via US Department of Justice.

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were found guilty Thursday in federal court for illegally accepting cash, luxury goods, and vacations from the chief executive of a nutritional supplement manufacturer in exchange for promotion by the state government.

A jury in federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia found the McDonnells guilty after a five-week trial that exposed long-simmering rifts between the McDonnells and Johnnie R. Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific, who lavished the McDonnells over several years in exchange for their promotion of Anatabloc, a tobacco-based supplement made by Williams’s former company.

Bob McDonnell was found guilty on 11 corruption counts while Maureen McDonnell was found guilty on eight corruption counts plus one count of obstruction of justice. Both faced a total of 14 counts. The jury of seven men and five women took a little more than two days to deliberate more than a month of testimony and arguments.

The McDonnells were charged in January, just days after leaving the governor’s mansion in Richmond. Many of the allegations against the couple stemmed from their former chef, who was profiled in the February issue of Washingtonian.

Among the trials revelations were images of Bob McDonnell cruising around in a Ferrari borrowed from Williams, testimony that Maureen McDonnell had an “obsession” with the businessman, and an argument by the defense that the McDonnells’ marriage was too fractured for them to build a conspiracy to cover up Williams’s largesse. In total, prosecutors say the McDonnells took over $200,000 in cash, clothing, jewelry, and vacations for pushing Anatabloc on everyone from state government underlings to Ann Romney, the wife of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

According to the Washington Post, the McDonnells were visibly emotional after the verdict was announced. The former governor “sobbed throughout the proceeding” and stared at the floor as he exited the courtroom. The McDonnells will be sentenced January 6 and each face up to 30 years in prison.

While an appeal is already considered “inevitable,” the verdict marks a low point for the McDonnells and Virginia politics at large. Once short-listed as a potential vice-presidential nominee, Bob McDonnell became the first governor of Virginia to be charged—and now convicted—of a felony.

UPDATE, 3:55 PM: “Of course we will appeal,” Bob McDonnell’s attorney, Hank Asbill, told reporters outside the courthouse.

McDonnell’s downfall is so jarring to the Virginia political establishment, it’s making his successor, Terry McAuliffe, a bit misty-eyed. “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,” McAuliffe said in a statement released by his office after the verdict. “Dorothy and I will continue to pray for the McDonnell family and for everyone who was affected by this trial.”

One person for whom the McAuliffes can spare their prayers: Johnnie R. Williams, the tobacco-derivative huckster turned star witness who got immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.