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January 7, 2015

From governor’s mansion to Petersburg federal prison

I stand before you as a humbled and heartbroken man. I hold myself fully accountable for my actions as governor.
— Bob McDonnell to Judge James Spencer
McDonnell Case Timeline

By Janeal Downs

Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Bob McDonnell was elected in a landslide and took office as the commonwealth’s 71st governor in January 2010. On Tuesday, just five years later, he was sentenced to prisonfor corruption. Here are key dates as McDonnell went from a rising star in the Republican Party to the first Virginia governor convicted of a felony.

• Nov. 3, 2009: With the campaign slogan “Bob’s for Jobs,” McDonnell won 59 percent of the statewide vote in defeating Democrat Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial race.

• Jan. 16, 2010: McDonnell was inaugurated.

• April 2011: Jonnie R. Williams Sr., CEO of Star Scientific Inc., paid for more than $15,000 of Maureen McDonnell’s items on a shopping trip. Star Scientific, now called Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, sold products such as a dietary supplement called Anatabloc.

• May 2011: Williams wrote Maureen McDonnell a $50,000 check.

• June 2011: Cailin McDonnell, one of the McDonnells’ daughters, got married at the Executive Mansion. Beforehand, Williams wrote a $15,000 check to cater the wedding. Maureen McDonnell told investigators the $50,000 and $15,000 checks were both loans. The same month, before her daughter’s wedding, Maureen McDonnell spoke at a meeting with doctors and investors in support of Anatabloc.

• August 2011: Bob McDonnell and Williams met to discuss the use of Anatabloc as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Williams bought a $6,500 Rolex watch. The Executive Mansion hosted an event for Anatabloc.

• December 2011: With “71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on the back, Maureen McDonnell gave her husband the Rolex watch Williams had purchased.

• March 2012: Williams gave a $50,000 check to MoBo, a company formed by the former governor, his wife and his sister, also named Maureen.

• February 2013: After being questioned by law enforcement officers about accepting gifts, Maureen McDonnell wrote a note to Williams implying that they had an agreement for her to return items he had purchased.

• July 2013: Bob McDonnell apologized to the public and said he repaid $120,000 in loans to Williams. On Twitter, he wrote, “I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens.” The governor said his daughter Cailin repaid Williams for the $15,000 spent on catering her wedding. He and his sons had also previously charged to Williams’ account while golfing.

• Jan. 11, 2014: Bob McDonnell left office as Democrat Terry McAuliffe was inaugurated as governor.

• Jan. 21, 2014: Bob and Maureen McDonnell were indicted on charges of illegally accepting gifts and loans from Williams.

• July 28-29, 2014: The jury trial began. Bob McDonnell’s attorneys began to use marital problems as a defense. They said Maureen McDonnell had a “crush” on Williams, which resulted in the numerous expensive gifts he gave to the McDonnells.

• Aug. 12, 2014: A cardiologist from Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical school said he went to a reception honoring Steven Spielberg, who directed the movie “Lincoln” in Virginia, at the Executive Mansion. The physician said Williams brought him to the event to try to persuade him to do research on Anatabloc.

• Aug. 13, 2014: Testimony revealed that Bob and Maureen McDonnell had almost $75,000 of credit card debt when he took office and that the debt later grew to $90,000.

• Aug. 20-21, 2014: Bob McDonnell testified that Maureen McDonnell had struggled with her role as first lady. He said the couple had marital issues.

• Aug. 26, 2014: McDonnell said that he regretted accepting gifts from Williams but that he never promised any favors from his office for the gifts.

• Sept. 4, 2014: Bob McDonnell was found guilty on 11 of 13 counts and Maureen McDonnell was found guilty on nine of 11 counts. (One of the counts against Maureen McDonnell was later thrown out.)

• Jan. 6, 2015: U.S. District Judge James Spencer sentenced Bob McDonnell to two years in prison.

• Feb. 20, 2015: Maureen McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced.

Editor’s note: Virginia Commonwealth University students provide this coverage through the news service.

By Benjamin May and
Sean C.W. Korsgaard

Photos by Michael Melkonian
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Former Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced Tuesday to 24 months in prison after being convicted of 11 felony corruption charges in September.

At a packed hearing at the federal courthouse, U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer sentenced Mr. McDonnell, 60, to two years in prison followed by two on probation.

Mr. McDonnell will be incarcerated at a federal facility in Petersburg at the request of his defense team. The Federal Bureau of Prisons must determine by Feb. 9 where Mr. McDonnell will carry out his sentence.

Mr. McDonnell said he was “blinded by the busy-ness of life,” as he accepted responsibility for his actions as governor. He asked that Judge Spencer be lenient with his wife, Maureen McDonnell, at her sentencing Feb. 20.

“A lot of blame was assessed in the case of the defendant’s predicament,” Judge Spencer said before reading the sentence. He said the McDonnells received a fair trial and had ample opportunity to present a rigorous defense.

The defendants filed dozens of motions and were afforded intense examination of witnesses. In short, Judge Spencer said Mr. McDonnell was given “all the process that was due him.”

“The defendants had good advice and good counsel all over the place,” the judge said, “but Mrs. McDonnell brought the serpent Jonnie Williams into the mansion, and Mr. McDonnell let him in and out of his finances.”

The McDonnells were convicted of accepting gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, the CEO of Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for lending the support of the governor’s office for the company’s dietary supplements.

Mr. McDonnell will be under supervised release at the end of his sentence. No fines were imposed because Judge Spencer said “the defendant would be unable to pay them.” However, Mr. McDonnell must pay an assessment of $1,100 and may not incur or apply for credit during his probation.

The sentencing began with arguments from the defense on the assessed value of the bribes the McDonnells received from Mr. Williams. Mr. McDonnell’s lawyers presented the figure of $69,640.53 as opposed to the indictment’s estimate of $177,000. Judge Spencer ultimately said “the government has the best analysis” on how much the gifts and loans were worth.

The defense was able to remove an obstruction enhancement from the sentencing guidelines. This dropped the maximum possible prison term from 12 years to eight years. The prosecution recommended that Mr. McDonnell be sentenced to 78 months in prison.

The defense asked that Mr. McDonnell be assigned 6,000 hours of community service – about three years of 40-hour workweeks. Operation Blessing International, a nonprofit based in Virginia Beach, said it would welcome McDonnell to work in Haiti or Bristol, Va. The Catholic Diocese of Richmond also said it would welcome Mr. McDonnell to work in Southwest Virginia.

The defense introduced nearly 500 letters of support from sources ranging from Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Each of the McDonnells’ children also submitted letters.

In addition, nearly a dozen character witnesses asked for leniency for the disgraced governor.

“If Bob McDonnell were to get 50 years (in prison), he wouldn’t be any more punished,” said former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat. Mr. Wilder earned applause when he pointed out that Mr. Williams, who instigated the corruption charges, will walk away a free man.

Mr. McDonnell once was considered a possible running mate for the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and a possible presidential candidate for 2016. Mr. McDonnell delivered the 2010 Republican response to the State of the Union address and was chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2011.

“I stand before you as a humbled and heartbroken man,” Mr. McDonnell said in a final statement to the court before his sentencing. “I hold myself fully accountable for my actions as governor.”

The McDonnell trial put Virginia in the national spotlight, and has sparked calls to reform the state’s ethics laws – a campaign promise of the current governor, Terry McAuliffe.

After the federal court hearing, Gov. McAuliffe said that the sentencing “brings an end to one of the most difficult periods in the history of Virginia state government.”

“Like many Virginians, I am saddened by the effect this trial has had on our commonwealth’s reputation for clean, effective government,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “As we put this period behind us, I look forward to working with Virginia leaders on both sides of the aisle to restore public trust in our government.”

Mr. McDonnell was the first Virginia governor in state history to be indicted or convicted of a felony. His defense team already has filed an appeal.
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