RICHMOND, Va. – Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were convicted Thursday of taking bribes to promote a dietary supplement in a corruption case that derailed the career of the onetime rising Republican star and laid bare the couple’s broken marriage.
A federal jury in Richmond convicted Bob McDonnell of 11 of the 13 counts he faced; Maureen McDonnell was convicted of nine of the 13 counts she faced. Both bowed their heads and wept as the court clerk read a chorus of guilty verdicts.
Widely considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign, McDonnell was reduced to living with the family’s priest in a church rectory during the trial. Now he and his wife face up to 20 years in prison for each conspiracy, fraud and bribery conviction. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 6.
The couple’s defense strategy depended in large part on convincing jurors that their marriage itself was a fraud and that they were unable to speak to each other, let alone conspire to accept bribes. They left the courtroom separately and wept loudly on the way out.
Bob McDonnell was ashen as he was mobbed by TV cameras before climbing into a waiting blue Mercedes.
All I can say is that my trust remains in the Lord, he said quietly. His attorney said he would appeal.
The McConnells were convicted on nearly all the counts involving doing favors for wealthy vitamin executive Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans that they admitted taking.
Maureen McDonnell also was convicted of obstructing justice after the scandal broke, by returning a designer gown Williams had bought for her during a New York shopping trip, along with a note that tried to diminish its value by suggesting they had agreed Williams could give the dress to his daughters or to charity. That conviction also carries a potential 20-year term.
Jurors acquitted them of bank fraud on loan applications that failed to mention the money Williams lent them.
The former governor, his head in his hands, began crying as soon as he heard the first sob from his daughter Cailin. Other family members and supporters followed suit. The weeping became louder, and McDonnell’s sobbing grew more intense, with each succeeding finding of guilt.
Testifying in his own defense, McDonnell insisted that he provided nothing more than routine political courtesies to the former CEO of Virginia-based Star Scientific.