McDonnell faces jail time and $1 million in fines
Former governor charged with 14 counts of fraud, conspiracy and federal obstruction
Just 10 days after former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s term ended, a grand jury charged him and his wife Maureen Tuesday with fraud, conspiracy and federal obstruction in a 14-count federal indictment.
Prosecutors allege that McDonnell and his wife illegally supported nutritional supplement company Star Scientific in exchange for gifts from then-CEO Jonnie Williams. If convicted, McDonnell could serve decades in federal prison.
“In terms of possible jail time and fines, the false statement charges are punishable by up to 30 years and the other counts are punishable by up to 20 years,” Center for Politics spokesperson Geoffrey Skelley said. “Related fines range from $250,000 to $1 million.”
McDonnell has fervently denied his activity was illegal. While McDonnell’s acceptance of the gifts is undeniable, court proceedings will determine whether they violated federal law. Even if evidence proves McDonnell is guilty, court documents show a possible withholding of evidence by prosecutors that may acquit him of wrongdoing.
“Virginia law is especially lenient when it comes to issues like accepting gifts while in office,” said Elizabeth Minneman, chair of the College Republicans and a third-year College student. “I agree with Virginia Republicans like [former Attorney General] Ken Cuccinelli who have called for ethics reform to ensure these things do not happen again, but we still cannot determine if McDonnell broke any laws without a full investigation.”
Whether McDonnell is ultimately convicted or not, Skelley said the case is unprecedented in Virginia’s history. “No governor has ever been in a situation like this, and while state legislators have been accused of and have been convicted of committing crimes … the severity of the McDonnells’ potential punishment far exceeds anything other Virginia politicians have faced,” he said.
New Virginia General Assembly reforms have largely focused on reform of ethics laws, which include a possible limit of $250 on gifts to individuals.
“I am disappointed in Gov. McDonnell for accepting gifts during his administration, but he has made efforts to return the gifts and apologize,” Minneman said.
The McDonnells will both attend an arraignment hearing in Richmond Federal Court on Friday.