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Author Topic: VA Governor Robert McDonnell: Guilty  (Read 2061 times)
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« Reply #25 on: September 07, 2014, 11:27:58 AM »

Bob McDonnell’s self-delusion and arrogance led to downfall in corruption trial
By Robert McCartney

When Bob McDonnell broke down in tears in the courtroom as the 20 “guilty” verdicts were announced, what do you suppose he was thinking?

That his career lay in ruins? That the jury disbelieved his nearly 24 hours of sworn testimony? That his failed defense strategy had demolished the reputation of his wife, Maureen?

We won’t know until the former governor writes a tell-all book or pleads for redemption in an emotional television interview.

Here’s what I’d like to believe: Bob McDonnell’s sobs showed he finally recognized that his own arrogance and self-delusion had brought him down.

McDonnell thought he was so clever that he could exploit loopholes in Virginia law to pocket $177,000 in luxury gifts and sweetheart loans without getting caught.

When that didn’t work, and corruption charges were brought, he thought he could talk his way out of trouble on the witness stand.

He was fooling himself. Neither the law’s gray areas nor his own eloquence swayed the jurors. They needed just over two days to convict him of 11 felonies and Maureen of nine.

“His happy life is over, whether or not he is exonerated on appeal,” Anne Coughlin, a University of Virginia criminal law professor, said. “A jury of his peers came back and said, ‘You are corrupt.’ That must really conflict with his image of who he is.”

I’d also like to believe that other politicians will learn from McDonnell’s downfall.

The jury’s quick and devastating verdict showed that the public doesn’t care much about legal nuances, such as what constitutes an “official act.”

The public just thinks, reasonably enough, that elected officials should not accept lavish personal gifts from people who want something in return.

“If you’re a smart governor or state politician of any stripe, you are going to be very wary about accepting any personal gift of any size from anyone,” said Andrew G. McBride, a former federal prosecutor who now practices at Wiley Rein.

Excessive pride wasn’t Bob McDonnell’s only sin. Greed played a role. He also might have suffered from envy of the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthy business executives who suddenly wanted to hang out with him after he moved into the Executive Mansion in Richmond.

But McDonnell ended up this way mainly because of hubris. His story is very much a morality tale, but not the one he’d constructed in his own mind or successfully peddled to the public.

In more than two decades in elected office, McDonnell portrayed himself as the straightest of straight arrows. Former Army lieutenant colonel. Loving husband and father of five. Christian-values conservative.

He convinced himself of his own selflessness. In a revealing sentence in the famous e-mail to Maureen begging to improve their marriage, he wrote, “My whole life is spent trying to help my family and other people.”

The scandal pointed to a contrary character trait: self-centeredness. That defect was evident in three major missteps by McDonnell that resulted in Thursday’s conviction.

The first was convincing himself that he was such an expert in Virginia law that he could go just up to the line without overstepping. He overlooked the risk of accepting so much largesse from businessman Jonnie Williams Sr.

“You have to look at the whole picture,” said Randall Eliason, a former chief of public corruption in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District. “What emerged here was a long-term pattern of extraordinary gifts.”

In his second error, McDonnell was so determined to win complete exoneration for himself that he turned down a plea deal that he clearly should have taken. It would have required him to plead guilty to just one crime, which wasn’t corruption, and let his wife go unpunished.

Finally, he mounted the notorious “broken marriage” defense, which proved too concocted to be credible. He tried to clear both himself and Maureen by claiming, in effect, that she was responsible for all of it — and she couldn’t be convicted of public corruption because the first lady’s position is merely ceremonial.

It didn’t sit well with jurors, partly because they noticed that the couple had physically separated only a week before the trial.

“Pointing and blaming other people is risky, especially when you’re the governor and the other person you’re blaming is your wife,” Coughlin said.

As he left the courthouse, McDonnell commented that his “trust remains in the Lord.” As a man of faith, he ought to turn now to one of the most important spiritual virtues: humility.

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« Reply #26 on: September 07, 2014, 01:55:55 PM »

I would like to hear his kids interviewed.  Presumably they still love their parents and believe in their innocence, but all of them were on the Williams gravy train.  When they were receiving all the gifts and cash didn't they think there was a connection between getting all that stuff from a total stranger and the fact that their father was governor?  Weren't they smart enough, then or now, to see the red flags?  Or were they just so greedy and entitled that they didn't care?  Maybe they should go to jail too?  Just saying.

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« Reply #27 on: September 07, 2014, 02:20:34 PM »

and he was the golden boy of the up and coming GOP crowd.
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« Reply #28 on: September 07, 2014, 06:46:40 PM »

I would like to hear his kids interviewed.  Presumably they still love their parents and believe in their innocence, but all of them were on the Williams gravy train.  When they were receiving all the gifts and cash didn't they think there was a connection between getting all that stuff from a total stranger and the fact that their father was governor?  Weren't they smart enough, then or now, to see the red flags?  Or were they just so greedy and entitled that they didn't care?  Maybe they should go to jail too?  Just saying.

Where's Janeane on that list?
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« Reply #29 on: September 08, 2014, 05:20:01 AM »

Why John Edwards won and Bob McDonnell lost

Why is Bob McDonnell looking at years in a federal prison while John Edwards is walking free?

The federal government dragged both men into court on charges stemming from their role in public life: Edwards for alleged campaign finance violations relating to his mistress and McDonnell for receiving gifts from a Virginia businessman. Both cases involved large sums of money and uncomfortable discussion of the politicians’ private lives. And they contributed to the notion that politicians operate in a sphere far removed from that of working Americans.

Going into Edwards’ trial, his reputation was in tatters over his highly-publicized affair with videographer Rielle Hunter. Edwards’s life became fare for the national tabloids, which repeatedly noted that his dalliance took place as his wife Elizabeth was dying of cancer.

McDonnell, by contrast, was a relatively well-liked and successful governor whose reputation took a hit late in his term as word emerged of the gifts he and his family received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Jr. Even as the details of the federal investigation spilled out late last year, McDonnell retained the support of half of Virginia voters.

Juries in federal courthouses about 200 miles apart in sleepy, mid-sized cities in the border South considered the evidence. But the results were wildly different: McDonnell was convicted of 11 felonies, while Edwards’s jury acquitted him on one count and hung on five others, prompting the feds to drop the case.

Here’s POLITICO’s guide to six ways McDonnell’s defense went sour while Edwards’s succeeded:

1) It all came down to the Rolex

McDonnell was caught with hand in the cookie jar — up to his wrist.

Unlike Edwards, McDonnell was seen as personally profiting from the largesse of a political backer, while the money prosecutors argued was chipped in to aid the ex-senator never went to him directly.

McDonnell could not escape evidence like the photo showing him smiling while showing off the $6,500 watch. His claims that he didn’t know Williams paid for it didn’t seem to persuade jurors. The pictures of him riding around in Williams’s Ferrari didn’t help his defense much either.

Prosecutors argued that the value of the expenses involved in Edwards’s case was about $900,000 — far higher than the $165,000 McDonnell and his family were accused of taking. But the money two friends of Edwards put out went to cover expenses incurred by Hunter to stay at lavish hotels and travel by private jet. It was also paid out when Edwards was a presidential candidate, not a senator.

“I talked to multiple Edwards jurors who were telling me: ‘He never touched the money.’ Here, you have indisputable visual evidence of McDonnell being on the receiving end of the benefit,” said Hampton Dellinger, a trial attorney who works in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. “That doesn’t necessarily end the legal inquiry but for jurors’ visceral gut reactions to the cases, it could be a good distinction.”

One McDonnell case juror said in a post-trial interview that it was clear the gifts McDonnell and his family took were directly linked to his public office. Kathleen Carmody told the Washington Post that jurors asked themselves: “Would the McDonnells have received these gifts if Bob McDonnell weren’t governor?…. [The] facts speak for themselves.”

Edwards’s legal team, headed by D.C. lawyer Abbe Lowell, argued that the ex-senator would have tried to hush up his affair with Hunter — and her ensuing pregnancy — even if he wasn’t running for president. Prosecutors said it was implausible that friendship alone would prompt anyone to pay up $900,000 to cover another person’s extramarital affair, but some of the payments did continue after Edwards’s presidential campaign was clearly doomed.

“Edwards was able to put in jurors’ minds whether the cover-up of the affair would have taken place regardless of whether he was running for president, that he wasn’t as much trying to save his candidacy as save his marriage,” Dellinger said.

2) When it’s all about sex, jurors recoil

Both cases offered awkward testimony about the prominent political couples’ marriages. In the McDonnell case, their union was on the table from the outset since both the governor and his wife, Maureen, were criminally charged. But the focus on marital strife came from the defense, with Maureen’s lawyer arguing at the outset of the trial that the couple’s marriage was “broken.”

At the Edwards trial, the ex-senator’s extramarital affair was the central theme and a frequent topic of discussion. Jurors even heard about Elizabeth Edwards ripping her blouse open to expose her scars from breast cancer surgery. In a page torn from the playbook used to fight President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, John Edwards’s defense suggested the federal government had spent millions investigating the tabloid tale of whether a man had a secret love child.

Prosecutors undoubtedly wanted to make Edwards seem like a bad person, but the focus on the personal may have backfired, fueling questions about the public interest served by the case.

3) Unlikable politicians should stay off the stand

Both Edwards and McDonnell are trial lawyers and politicians, confident in their own abilities to win over a crowd — or a jury.

But Edwards passed up his opportunity to lay it all out in court. The decision protected him a lengthy from cross-examination that would have surely led him through every alleged misdeed.

McDonnell went the other route, choosing to testify on his own behalf. He spent five days on the witness stand, two of them in grueling cross-examination. Jurors don’t seem to have bought his explanations that Williams’s largesse was driven solely by friendship.

“Edwards everyone knows wanted nothing more than to try to explain his side of the story the jury, but he ultimately decided to stay silent. McDonnell went another route,” noted Dellinger, now with Boies, Schiller & Flexner. “Politicians are compelling figures that lead jurors to have strong opinions. There’s a real risk when you’re a charismatic figure like that in taking the stand as a criminal defendant.”

4) Don’t throw your wife under the bus

Even if McDonnell was insistent on taking the stand, his suggestions that his wife was acting without his knowledge may have rubbed jurors the wrong way.

“He was rendered more unlikable for throwing his wife under the bus at trial,” said one prominent D.C. defense lawyer.

Edwards’s defense worked hard to paint the couple’s relationship as complicated and intense, but devoted to each other despite the infidelity. The strategy may have rehabilitated the ex-senator a bit and fed the defense narrative that the affair was hidden to avoid hurting his ailing wife.

5) Campaigns are an ethical cesspool, but governing shouldn’t be

One unintentionally comical moment in the Edwards trial came when prosecutors told jurors that donors were limited to giving $2,300 per candidate in each election. The assertion must have been baffling since the trial took place in 2012 as headlines were filled with reports of figures like Sheldon Adelson spending tens of millions of dollars on candidates like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

There are fine legal distinctions between the spending, of course, but jurors in the Edwards case seem to have accepted that campaigns are a kind of ethical cesspool where money flows freely and lying is commonplace. Whether McDonnell’s jury feels the same way about campaigns isn’t clear, but they sent a clear message Thursday that politicians should not get the all’s-fair-in-campaigns pass when trying to leverage their office for personal gain.

6) A prosecutor who learned from experience

If the prosecution outmaneuvered the defense to chalk up a win at McDonnell’s trial, some of that can likely be traced to the fact that one key member of the prosecution team in Richmond chalked up what amounted to an embarrassing loss in Greensboro.

David Harbach of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section delivered the closing arguments at both trials and he seems to have learned from mistakes at the earlier one.

In the Edwards case, prosecutors opened with Andrew Young, an unappealing former Edwards aide who was picked apart by the defense. In the McDonnell case, the prosecution led off with a caterer who took $15,000 from Williams to pay for McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding reception and then from the daughter herself. Calling Williams to the stand later may have signaled that he wasn’t the linchpin of the government’s case.

The prosecution also rolled out a relatively full cast of characters in McDonnell’s case, while in Edwards several pivotal players were never called: elderly donor Rachel Bunny Mellon, donor Fred Baron (understandably since he died in 2008), and the mistress, Hunter. Jurors may have felt that key facts were being hidden from them, something they will often hold against the prosecution after being told by the judge that the defense has no duty to present any evidence.

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« Reply #30 on: September 08, 2014, 04:38:51 PM »

A Shameful Defense Fails
The McDonnells say they weren’t lying about their finances; they were lying about everything else.
By Dahlia Lithwick

We may never fully know what led a Virginia jury to find former Gov. Bob McDonnell guilty on 11 counts of federal corruption and his wife, Maureen, guilty of nine counts. The federal investigation, indictment, and trial at first seemed something of an overreach, and right to the end, it seemed like the case might have been difficult to prove to a jury. After the trial ended in such a brisk and crushing verdict, it now seems easy to say the result was inevitable. If it was never perfectly clear that the prosecutors found the quid to the pro quo, well, in the end it didn’t matter. After weeks of trial, the jury seemed to want nothing more than to loofah off the filth and go home.

The McDonnells were indicted on 14 counts of conspiracy, bribery, and extortion for allegedly taking more than $177,000 in gifts, junkets, and cash from Jonnie Williams. He was the dodgy head of a company that made a tobacco-derived dietary supplement called Anatabloc, and he wanted the governor to push his products. The seven men and five women of the jury heard from 67 witnesses over a trial that lasted five weeks, during which time the former governor and his wife slept at separate residences, entered the courtroom through separate doors, and sat at separate defense tables, while offering up a joint defense.

If I never hear the phrase “X threw Y under a bus” again, especially with regard to this trial, I will be immensely grateful. At some point in the proceedings, it seemed as if there were so many people thrown under so many buses—wife, children, executive chef, staff—it wasn’t clear the bus could move anymore. Maureen McDonnell acceded to a legal strategy that painted her as a frosty harridan with a roving eye and a lamentable inability to manage the staff (the “Downton Abbey defense”). I still cannot accept the defense's proposition that she was somehow driving the bus when it looked to the rest of the world like she was lying under it.

It’s easy to say that everyone in power is bought and that the McDonnells simply got caught getting bought. But that doesn’t quite capture the horror of what happened here in the commonwealth in the past month. Whatever shame they brought on the office of governor by their dealings with Williams was overshadowed by the shame of their legal strategy. The jurors must have felt unimaginably filthy listening to gruesome tales of a “nutbag” first lady, rebuffed letters from the governor trying to resolve marital spats, and tween-grade text messages to a man Maureen McDonnell was allegedly “obsessed with.” That the former governor knew his career was making his wife wretched and drove on nonetheless is one thing. That he blamed her wretchedness for wrecking his career borders on felony chutzpah.

Maybe the defense strategy that the McDonnells could never have colluded because they didn’t speak was the only defense they had. But that’s their own fault. Prosecutors had offered the former governor a deal that would have had him plead guilty to a single count of fraud and would have spared his wife. The defense on display this month wasn’t the best bad option. It was the worst bad option. And it clearly wasn’t convincing. As Amy Davidson notes, you can be in a miserable marriage and still collude to take cash in exchange for pushing dietary supplements.

As the jurors begin to talk, we may begin to get some insight into why they came down so hard on the former first couple. But one possibility is that you just can’t explain lies with lies. And the McDonnell strategy always seemed to be just that: “We couldn’t have been lying to you about our finances, Virginia, because we were too busy lying to you about everything else. We lied about our marriage for years. We lied about our values and our integrity. We lied about our political and economic convictions. We lied about the centrality of family and marriage to our vision of governance.” In the end, when the jurors were asked to believe one more lie—that the McDonnells’ whole life was an “act” (a lie that may or may not now come true, if the McDonnells’ marriage fails to survive this spectacle) to explain the other lies—it may have been too much to sanction.

Nothing about this spectacular political fall is good news. The commonwealth of Virginia has had to watch as the nation snickered at the naive belief in “the Virginia way,” a marriage is likely ruined, five children are shattered, and the public certainty that government is unfixable and contemptible has a new Exhibit A.

Maybe the verdict will generate some interest in the Virginia General Assembly about fixing state ethics laws. But probably not. Maybe those of us who feel sorry for the McDonnells, because greed and unhappiness are human and everyone makes mistakes, should recognize that our prisons are full of good people who also made mistakes. And maybe husbands and wives in America can agree, for future reference, that if “for better or for worse” means anything, it means not eviscerating each other in public. It’s hard to know whether the jury was more bothered by the corruption allegations or about the lies spun to excuse them. But if the McDonnell trial can achieve the demise of the “don’t blame me for my greediness, it’s my crazy wife’s fault” defense, whether used legally or at happy hours, we should perhaps all be grateful.

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« Reply #31 on: September 10, 2014, 02:50:52 PM »

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell loses Liberty University teaching job
McDonnell and his wife Maureen were convicted on multiple counts of corruption Thursday. Liberty University President Jerry Falwell said McDonnell is not scheduled to teach any courses at the school in the fall.
by Leslie Larson

Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has lost his teaching gig at Liberty University.

The Christian college announced on Friday they had ditched the disgraced politician after he was convicted on multiple federal corruption charges.

Liberty President Jerry Falwell had called the former governor “a longtime friend of the university” in April, when McDonnell was appointed a visiting professor in government.

“He achieved great success as governor in making Virginia one of the nation’s most business-friendly and fiscally sound states while getting people to work together for the common good. These experiences uniquely qualify him to teach our students about every aspect of serving in public office,” the school said in its announcement.

But after his fall from grace, his unique qualifications are no longer in demand.

Falwell said McDonnell wasn’t scheduled to teach any classes during the fall semester and wouldn’t be returning in the spring, according to WSET-TV.

McDonnell and his estranged wife Maureen were found guilty of public corruption on September 4. A jury found the couple accepted gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for using the governor’s office to promote his products.

The McDonnells will be sentenced in January and could face 20 years in prison.
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« Reply #32 on: September 10, 2014, 05:16:49 PM »

lib witch hunt.

obama accept millions in bribes daily, and nobody says a thing.  perry commits a few felonies to pander to his 67 IQ base, and everyone loses their shit.  come on, people. 
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« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2014, 06:01:52 AM »

For Bob McDonnell, a Miscalculation at the Scene of a Blunder

WASHINGTON — On Aug. 15, 2013, Bob McDonnell visited the site of one of Virginia’s great tactical blunders.

As part of his final official tour of the state as its governor, Mr. McDonnell went to Ball’s Bluff State Park in Leesburg, where more than 150 years ago a Union army scout crossed the Potomac River and mistook a row of trees for an unguarded Confederate camp. The next morning, Union soldiers approached the trunks and branches and soon found themselves surrounded by well-armed Mississippi infantrymen. By the end of the skirmish, Confederate soldiers had killed nearly half of the Union troops, many of them pushed off the bluff and into the Potomac.

Even by the time of his visit, Mr. McDonnell seemed likely to enter the state’s history books for his own bad judgment — accepting extravagant gifts and generous loans from a Richmond businessman seeking favor from the governor’s office. On Thursday, the ink dried when a federal jury found him guilty on 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

At Ball’s Bluff last year, Mr. McDonnell announced $2.2 million in grants for battlefield preservation. As he sat in sunglasses on a white folding chair, James Lighthizer, the president of the Civil War Trust, said that ultimately Mr. McDonnell would be most remembered for conserving Civil War battlefields. “He has done more for battlefield preservation than any other governor in the United States of America,” Mr. Lighthizer said.

The governor, wearing a dark suit, yellow tie and perfectly parted hair, gave a short speech, posed for photos and fired a cannon. As a woman from The Civil War News interviewed Civil War re-enactors, Mr. McDonnell answered questions from reporters about whether he would be remembered more for his acceptance of Rolex watches.

“Listen,” he said. “I think people are forgiving and I’ve made an apology for the distraction that this has caused the people of Virginia. And the decisions that have accounted for that. I’ve paid back all the loans, my counsel has informed me, all the tangible gifts now have been given back. But I think people are fair and they know that over these four years Virginia is a leader in so many areas and people really evaluate things over all about how does it feel for me and my family at the kitchen table. You know, I have got five kids. I grew up a normal average middle-class guy here in Fairfax County and I just had the extraordinary fortune to have the same job as Jefferson and Henry so I consider myself pretty normal.” He was referring to Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, both of whom were Virginia governors.

As he was about to get back into his S.U.V., he was asked whether he had any ambitions for the future.

“You know,” he said. “I’m the kind of person who believes you do one thing at a time. I learned in the army as a lieutenant you take one hill at a time, you take the one in front of you, not the one behind you. And I have immense faith in God that if you do something well now you will have lot of opportunities later on, so I’m not worried about it right now.”

But how did he actually intend to spend the hours out of office? He talked about working out and watching his waistline, and then his eyes lit up.

“I would love to spend about a month on a beach,” he said. “Just reading books. I’ve got 25 books on my night stand. Actually 26. I just got the battle of Ball’s Bluff now. I got a bunch of them there I’d like to read. But that, honestly, a little R and R and a lot of pleasure reading is what I’d like to do.”
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« Reply #34 on: September 12, 2014, 08:48:37 AM »

Del. Ken Plum: The Legacy of Bob McDonnell
Opinion  by Del. Ken Plum

I had no idea what to expect when the jury announced it had reached its verdicts on the charges against former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, but when the verdicts were announced I was stunned.

The jury of seven men and five women left no doubt in their findings: eleven counts of guilty for the former Governor and nine counts of guilty for his wife! All the efforts to explain away their behavior, redefine their relationship, and nuance words and actions were not successful.

Virginia has now achieved the level of disdain we have held towards governors of other states in similar circumstances.  We have a former governor found guilty of corruption in office.  Somehow with Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson having occupied that seat, it was not supposed to happen in Virginia.

Bob McDonnell is the last person anyone would have thought would have brought this legacy to Virginia. He served his country in the military. He has three degrees from a Christian university. He married a professional cheerleader from a major league football team. The thesis for his masters’ degree spelled out an old-fashioned morality that he thought was essential for how people should behave. He was a prosecuting attorney finding others guilty of crimes in order to keep his community safe. He represented his community in the House of Delegates where he introduced bills that included one for a covenant marriage. His first statewide elective office was Attorney General responsible for seeing that Virginia’s laws were fairly interpreted. His win for Governor was by a wide margin. He appeared squeaky clean.

The jury heard in detail what happened during his term as governor and determined he was guilty of corruption.  That is the way our system of justice works.  Not only is his legacy tarnished so too is that of his wife and family. For the Governor and his family on a personal level, they have my thoughts and sincere prayers. There will be an appeal, no doubt. Whatever the criminal justice system does with the case under appeal will not restore the man to the elevated position he had in the public’s mind when he became governor.

We need to turn our attention now to the legacy for Virginia. Maybe we Virginians had it coming for we had become somewhat pompous over our reputation for the clean government we thought we had. Despite some cynics’ views, virtually all elected officials and government employees are honest, hard-working people who want to do their best for the Commonwealth. For those who do not fit this category we need to participate in a whistle-blowing exercise that will expose any who are putting their selfish gain above the public good. And the legislature needs to do more work on its conflict of interest and ethics laws.  Maybe those changes can become the legacy of Bob McDonnell.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates.
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« Reply #35 on: September 20, 2014, 02:31:18 PM »

Ex-Va. governor Robert McDonnell asks for acquittal of public corruption charges
By Matt Zapotosky

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell on Thursday asked a federal judge to acquit him of the public corruption charges of which he stands convicted or at least grant him a new trial — arguing that the guilty verdicts stemmed from “insufficient evidence” and “numerous legal errors during the proceedings.”

The arguments — at least those that are public so far — are ones that McDonnell’s attorneys raised even before the trial of him and his wife began, and experts say U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer is likely to reject them again. McDonnell (R) can still appeal the case after his sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 6.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted this month of public corruption charges after jurors determined that they effectively sold the prestige of the governor’s office to Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. for $177,000 in gifts, vacations and sweetheart loans. In their motions Thursday evening, the McDonnells argued that those convictions were flawed — in large part, they said, because McDonnell did not perform any “official acts” or promise to perform specific acts for Williams.

To substantiate the public corruption charges, prosecutors were required to prove that McDonnell either performed, or promised to perform, such acts.

“No reasonable juror could conclude from this record that the accused promised to exercise (or influence others to exercise) any governmental power to benefit Mr. Williams,” defense attorneys wrote. “The most the Government established, granting it the benefit of all reasonable inferences, is that Mr. McDonnell facilitated Mr. Williams’ access to certain government decision-makers so that Mr. Williams could attempt to persuade them to his cause.”

The motions preview what experts say might form the basis of the McDonnells’ appeals, especially when it comes to the notion of “official acts.” In arguing for a new trial, both Bob and Maureen McDonnell asserted that the judge improperly defined “official acts” for jurors. The said the court’s broad definition “invited the jurors to find that official acts can be nothing more than arranging meetings, attending events, or emailing subordinates,” and that was improper.

Prosecutors alleged that the official acts McDonnell took on Williams’s behalf included arranging a meeting for Williams with a state health official, allowing him to host an event at the governor’s mansion to promote his company’s dietary supplement, Anatabloc, and permitting him to invite guests to another mansion event that was intended for health-care leaders.

They also alleged that McDonnell worked in subtle ways to encourage state university researchers to perform studies of Williams’s product. The studies were something Williams long sought but never actually got.

Defense attorneys addressed each alleged official act in turn, referring to trial testimony as they argued that none constituted a crime. They contended that Williams never testified about an explicit quid-pro-quo arrangement with the governor but only about “his vague belief that Mr. McDonnell would provide unspecified ‘help’ at some indeterminate point in time.”

And they cited, for comparison, former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II’s relationship with Williams, noting that he received gifts from Williams and introduced the businessman to a lobbyist whose brother is chairman of the state tobacco commission. Williams had hoped that the commission would held fund studies of Anatabloc.

“But no one would claim that this was a crime, because introducing someone to a lobbyist does not constitute ‘official action,’ ” defense attorneys wrote. “The same is true here.”

Defense attorneys laid out several other grounds that they say justify an acquittal or new trial. They argued the public corruption charges were unconstitutionally vague. They argued — as they have in the past — that some of the counts of which McDonnell was convicted required prosecutors to show that his actions affected interstate commerce and that they did not do so. (Prosecutors contend that they needed only to prove that McDonnell intended to affect interstate commerce and that his and his wife’s promotion of Anatabloc did that.)

Defense attorneys also argued that prosecutors should not have been allowed to present evidence that McDonnell’s staffers discussed preparing materials to show the governor where he could play golf for free, nor should they have been allowed to show evidence that McDonnell accepted an expensive island vacation from Henrico hotelier William H. Goodwin Jr. and failed to report it on state required economic disclosure forms. They argued pre-trial publicity prevented a fair trial, and prospective jurors were not questioned extensively enough before the proceedings began.

Maureen McDonnell’s attorneys argued, as they have in the past, that the judge should have separated her trial from her husband’s. Maureen McDonnell also moved Thursday to be acquitted on an obstruction of justice charge of which she alone was convicted.

Spencer has heard — and rejected — virtually all of the arguments before, many more than once. While he is likely to do so again, experts say the McDonnells might have a greater chance of success with the judges who ultimately hear their appeal.
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« Reply #36 on: September 21, 2014, 04:58:26 AM »

Who's paid for the McDonnells' 20 lawyers?
By Joanne Kimberlin

Fifteen for him + five for her = 20 lawyers.

That’s the headcount inside the two defense teams orbiting former first couple Bob and Maureen McDonnell at their federal corruption trial in Richmond.

Who’s footing their fees, now estimated by some to reach $2 million?

Not taxpayers, though the troubles of the ex-governor and his wife have cost Virginians close to $800,000 – a public meter that continues to tick.

But first, the private money.

...the McDonnells are responsible for their own legal bills, a heavy load considering the financial straits they’ve aired in court and the top-shelf talent they’ve hired.

To help out, around 100 supporters have donated a total of $253,690 – according to the latest IRS filing from the “Restoration Fund” – but the collection is only for Bob McDonnell’s defense, not the first lady’s, and it won’t come close to covering even his tab.

The bulk of the McDonnells’ attorneys come from three global law firms with Washington offices. Their teams feature veteran lawyers with national pedigrees, including four former federal prosecutors and one special counsel to President George W. Bush.

In other words: expensive.

Peter Greenspun, a Fairfax attorney, says the going rate for D.C.-area lawyers in those leagues can top $750 an hour. Early projections put the McDonnells’ bill at roughly $1 million, “but if they’re paying by the hour, full retail,” Greenspun said, the total could wind up “double that.”

Greenspun, who defended Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad, convicted in 2003 in Virginia Beach, said there are plenty of variables: Only the teams’ lead attorneys are likely to bill at the top tier, and the McDonnells may have negotiated for a flat or discounted rate, given the high-profile nature of the case.

Jason Miyares, a Virginia Beach attorney involved with the Restoration Fund, won’t say how donations are faring. That information doesn’t have to be divulged until mid-October, when the fund’s next quarterly tax report is due. On Friday, a search for its website,, turned up a notice that the site’s domain name expired July 31 and had not been renewed.

On its most recent quarterly report – filed June 30 – the fund reported paying out $175,040, the majority to three law firms working on behalf of the ex-governor. Richard Gilliam, a coal magnate from the western part of the state, remained at the top of its donor list, with a $50,000 contribution. One person gave $15,000, and six – including Mitt Romney – gave $10,000 apiece.

A few others on the donor list with local name recognition:

Teri Rigell, wife of U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell ($5,000), state Sen. Jeff McWaters ($5,000), Town Center developers Lou Haddad and Dan Hoffler ($2,000 each), retired Virginia Beach prosecutor Harvey Bryant ($300) and former U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake ($200), who also was director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation in McDonnell’s administration.

Taxpayers come into play on the prosecution side, but a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office handling the McDonnell case said the federal government doesn’t track the cost of individual cases.

As for Virginia’s public money, $795,000 was spent last year to cover bills from two private law firms who supplied counsel to state employees involved in the case, including the governor.

Normally, that kind of advice would come from the office of the state attorney general, but Ken Cuccinelli, attorney general at the time, decided to recuse himself from the case, citing a conflict of interest.

Cuccinelli once owned stock in Star Scientific, the company the McDonnells are accused of promoting in exchange for bribes from its chief executive.

Mark Herring, the current attorney general, cut the private firms loose when he took office in January, saying their services were no longer needed.

But according to Herring spokesman Michael Kelly, Gov. Terry McAuliffe later rehired at least one of those law firms.

McAuliffe’s office did not return messages left by The Pilot last week asking about the rehiring of the firms or requesting their latest invoices.

According to an article published in May in the Washington Post, McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the governor reversed Herring’s decision to make sure state employees called to testify at the corruption trial have legal representation without racking up their own bills.

Notable donors
Richard Gilliam, a coal magnate from western Virginia: $50,000

Mitt Romney: $10,000

Teri Rigell, wife of U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell: $5,000

State Sen. Jeff McWaters: $5,000

Lou Haddad and Dan Hoffler, Town Center developers: $2,000 each

Harvey Bryant, retired Virginia Beach prosecutor: $300

Former U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake, who served under the McDonnell administration: $200

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« Reply #37 on: September 21, 2014, 06:06:35 PM »

Bob McDonnell’s shocking stupidity: How could a politician have been this dumb?
Latest GOP governor to humiliate himself -- and break the law -- endured a crazy saga. Here's why it's so surreal
by Jim Newell

On a level of basic human sympathy, it’s painful to see anyone, including former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell, sob through the jury’s reading of 11 and nine guilty counts, respectively. They have children and grandchildren and, barring an appeal, are likely headed to jail for a significant chunk of time. And that’s after, in a desperate, quirky and ultimately unsuccessful defense, they laid bare the daily troubles with their marriage for the world to absorb. It felt dirty to watch the trial, and I, at least, didn’t feel it was necessary to write daily updates about the tabloid trash revealed in court on any particular day.

But what must be most painful for the McDonnells right now is the knowledge of how completely avoidable this was. There’s nothing even approaching honor or pride in these transgressions. There’s no crime here that you can convince yourself was the right call as a statesman; you can’t even say, in some sort of Nixonian way, "all I had in mind, the whole time, was the good of the people of Virginia." There’s nothing like that here, unless you think that Virginians really needed the dietary supplement Anatabloc in order to live long and prosper. Bob and Maureen McDonnell will go down as the first Virginia first couple to go down on criminal charges … because they took a bunch of cash and golf trips and Rolexes.

Cash, golf trips, Rolexes, vacations, checks, vacations, Ferrari rides: The components of the $100,000+ in gifts and loans that they received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr., in exchange for using the powers of the governorship to promote his dumb diet pill thing, couldn’t have been a shinier bundle of objects for the prosecution to present to the jury. In modern politics, corruption charges are usually more tediously complex: Money was wired here and then laundered via a pass-through, which made its way through another pass-through and was distributed through a foundation before ending up at a nonprofit designed to help such and such’s interests with a client trying to change regulations in foreign markets, or whatever. Not in this case. The prosecution just had to show the jury images of the idiot governor showing off his flashy watch that was given to him by the rich businessman for whom he did favors in return. How much simpler could this get? It’s only a degree of reality or two away from an old-timey political cartoon of a tuxedoed plutocrat, smoking a cigar, handing over a big bag marked “$$$,” to a crooked politician slapping his back and cackling.

God, the stupidity.

Even when the McDonnells realized they’d been caught, and indicted, for cartoonish quid pro quo corruption, they inexplicably continued to roll the dice. You’d think they’d realize, Oh god, they caught us taking lots of money from this guy, better strike a deal! And yet they didn’t. Bob McDonnell rejected a plea deal that would have charged him with one felony and let Maureen McDonnell off free. Whoops!

The McDonnells — or each McDonnell, given the state of their marriage — must have decided that they had a fantastic chance of defeating this in court. Umm. Did they talk to their lawyers before rejecting that deal? Because the defense — the now infamous defense — that they took in court reeked of desperation all the way through. If you’re willing to testify for days about the stunning levels of dysfunction in your marriage, as the best hope for your exoneration, doesn’t that suggest that you may not have the strongest case? Doesn’t that suggest that perhaps you would’ve been better taking a plea deal? It didn’t even cohere. The idea that Bob and Maureen McDonnell were on such bad terms that there was no way they could have had a discussion or two about taking this guy’s money just doesn’t make sense.

The obvious explanation for Bob McDonnell’s tears is that he’s going to jail for a while. It would make me cry, too! But you also get the feeling that Bob McDonnell hadn’t come to terms with the hubris, and all of the missteps along the way, until this was read. These were crimes of such classic simplicity that a defendant could, at least for a while, convince himself of the unreality of it all. That there’s no way he could have gotten caught up in such a self-parody of a scheme, or that a jury would actually send him to jail over these things. Did this really happen?

Yeah, it really did. It’s hard to believe for us, too.

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« Reply #38 on: September 24, 2014, 03:07:02 AM »

They were pushing the envelope from day one.  Angry

Mansion spending records indicate improper billing by Virginia governor and his family
By Laura Vozzella June 16, 2013

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, have used taxpayer money for a range of small personal items they should have paid for themselves under state policy, according to spending records.

The McDonnells have billed the state for body wash, sunscreen, dog vitamins and a digestive system “detox cleanse,” the records show. They also have used state employees to run personal errands for their adult children. In the middle of a workday, for example, a staffer retrieved Rachel McDonnell’s newly hemmed pants at a tailoring shop nine miles from the governor’s mansion. Another time, a state worker was dispatched to a dry cleaner 20 miles away to pick up a storage box for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding dress.

About six months into the governor’s term, the official who oversees mansion spending told the McDonnells that they should not have charged taxpayers for a number of expenses, including deodorant, shoe repairs and dry-cleaning their children’s clothing. The official asked the McDonnells to pay the state back more than $300, which they did, and also gave them a refresher on what the state will and won’t provide for occupants of the governor’s mansion.

But since that time, state records show that the McDonnells have continued to let taxpayers pick up the tab for numerous personal items, including vitamins, nasal spray and sleep-inducing elixirs.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Washington Post sought records of personal expenses covered by the state over the couple’s 31 / 2 years in the mansion. The full cost of those items is unknown because the state released only 16 sales receipts, most of them from 2011. State records show that there were many more personal shopping trips — nine others in January 2011 alone, including two to Bed Bath & Beyond to pick up “college stuff” for the McDonnells’ children.

The McDonnells repaid the state for at least some personal items purchased on those occasions. But without receipts, it is impossible to know whether they fully reimbursed taxpayers. The few receipts that were released show only partial repayment.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin declined to say why other receipts were not released.

Based on the disclosed records, the amount of personal expenses the McDonnells billed to the state is small — less than $600, including the $300 they repaid. But the disclosure comes at time when spending at Virginia’s Executive Mansion is already under scrutiny.

The FBI and a federal grand jury are investigating the $15,000 catering tab at Cailin McDonnell’s mansion wedding in June 2011 that was paid by a McDonnell campaign donor. That same donor, Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr., also lent the governor his Ferrari, lakeside vacation home and private jet. A Richmond prosecutor also is investigating whether the governor violated state gift disclosure laws.

Emerging as the former mansion chef faces charges of stealing food from the kitchen, the McDonnells’ expense records provide some insight into how the executive home has been managed. The chef has alleged that the McDonnells — already entitled to a free mansion, food, personal chef, maids and one of nation’s few state-funded butlers — have engaged in petty pilfering.

In court filings submitted as part of his defense, chef Todd Schneider has said that the McDonnells’ five children raided the mansion kitchen and liquor cabinet, taking large quantities of food and alcohol to their own homes or college dorm rooms. He also said that Maureen McDonnell had given away mansion pots and pans to her three daughters. McDonnell has declined to respond to those accusations, noting the ongoing criminal case against the chef.

Martin said the McDonnells have sought to properly distinguish personal expenses from state ones while living in the mansion, a 200-year-old Federal-style gem that is a public building and a private residence.

“Every Administration strives to balance private family life with the official state functions that are all occurring under the same roof, at the same time,” Martin said in an e-mail. “It is a balance and there is a constant effort to ensure that it is appropriately managed. The McDonnell Administration has adhered to precedent in reimbursing the state for items meant for personal use.”

In the McDonnell family’s first six months in the mansion, taxpayers paid for dry-cleaning the twin sons’ suits and shirts, repairing the first lady’s shoes and putting new shoulder pads into an item of her clothing. The McDonnells billed their energy drinks, body wash, deodorant and breath-freshening strips to the state as well.

Virginians paid for a $62 laminated banner to celebrate the twins’ high school graduation, with a state employee picking up the sign at the print shop and paying for it with the mansion credit card. When Ginger, the sheltie/terrier mix billed as “Virginia’s first dog,” needed vitamins, the McDonnells passed the $9.49 expense to taxpayers.

Eventually, an official who reviews mansion spending kicked those expenses back and asked the McDonnells to reimburse the commonwealth $317.27. The McDonnells paid the money back.

“These expenses are personal ones, that due to auditing and the direction of Dennis Johnson, Division Director of DSAS [Division of Selected Agency Support Services], cannot be covered by the State or Mansion funds,” mansion director Sarah Scarbrough said in a note to the McDonnells in the fall of 2010.

The state will cover the cost of dry-cleaning for the governor and first lady, basic hygiene items, “including toilet paper, mouthwash, bar soap,” cleaning and laundry supplies, and food for family meals, state functions and events, Johnson said in the memo.

But it does not cover the cost of clothing alterations, dry-cleaning for other family members, deodorant or body wash, pet food or treats, or food for non-family meals or non-state functions, Johnson wrote.

The McDonnells directly pushed back on one front, insisting that the state continue to pay for their energy drinks. The governor’s chief of staff, Martin Kent, overruled Johnson to allow the drinks at state expense.

“While other governors and spouses may have had bacon and eggs, or cereal, or etc for breakfast, Governor McDonnell drinks Boost every morning, and the First Lady has a 5-Hour energy and/or a Boost,” Martin wrote. “That is their breakfast. And that is why those items are covered, just like breakfast is covered for EVERY Governor and First Lady.”

Like all new governors and their families, the McDonnells were told the expense rules at the outset of the administration but needed some time for them to sink in, Johnson said in an interview. Energy drinks aside, Johnson said that ever since he gave the McDonnells their refresher on what the state will and won’t pay for, their spending has been in line with state policy.

“Typically when an administration comes in, we do discuss things,” he said. “There are growing pains, and early on in the administration, there will be some things we have to review and discuss.”

But sales receipts released by the state indicate that energy drinks are not the only extra the governor and first lady have continued to get at state expense. They went on to bill taxpayers for myriad medicine-cabinet products, vitamins and the body wash that Johnson said shouldn’t be billed, records show.

Records also show that the McDonnells used state employees to run personal errands for their children — and directed the employees to use the mansion credit card to pay for their children’s personal items.

In some cases, personal items for the McDonnell children are the only products listed on mansion credit card receipts. In those instances, the errands do not appear to have been performed in conjunction with any official state business.

In July 2011, for example, a state employee picked up Rachel McDonnell’s hemmed pants at Lucy’s Divine Creations, located 20 minutes west of the mansion. And that November, a worker was dispatched to Handcraft Cleaners, 30 minutes away, to get a box for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding dress. The $24 charge for the hemming and the $49.50 cost of the box went on the mansion credit card. The McDonnells later repaid the state for those personal expenses, but not for the use of employee time.

Martin said that Maureen McDonnell would have run those errands herself, but because she is the first lady, she must always travel with a security detail.

“First Ladies have Executive Police Protection,” Martin wrote. “They cannot just jump in their own car and run errands. Therefore the reimbursement process exists to allow First Families to reimburse for personal items that may have been picked up by staff.”
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« Reply #39 on: September 30, 2014, 01:29:05 PM »

A tragedy for Robert McDonnell, a nightmare for the political system
By Jennifer Rubin

Virginians are still reeling from former governor Robert F. McDonnell’s conviction on 11 corruption charges. If the indictment seemed unreal, the number of counts, the potential length of the sentence, the unseemly details about his marriage and the magnitude of the lapse in judgment are nearly incomprehensible. At times it has seemed as if there is some other governor, not the former Army officer and sober politician who has been a fixture in state politics for 20 years, at the center of the storm. When one considers the generous terms of a plea bargain (his wife, Maureen, walks and he pleads to a single non-corruption count) he rejected, McDonnell’s plunge from the political stratosphere is akin to a Shakespearean tragedy. Pure hubris has ruined a lifetime of achievement and sterling reputation.

And still . . . there is an appeal. As serious as McDonnell’s predicament is, there is widespread agreement he has ample grounds for appeal. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

    “Overall, it’s obviously a victory for the government and a victory for the government’s theory that selling the prestige of the office amounts to an ‘honest services fraud,’ ” said Andrew McBride, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, now a partner at the Wiley Rein law firm.

    “(But) I think there will be a substantial and important legal appeal on the issue of what constitutes an official act, and what kind of breach of fiduciary duty is necessary to establish ‘honest services’ fraud,” McBride added. “These are issues that the Supreme Court has explored, and the Supreme Court has generally been very hostile to a broad reading of the honest services statute.”

    McBride noted that the high court rejected the theory of honest services fraud in 1987 but then Congress re-established it by statue in 1988. However, the Supreme Court in 2010 interpreted that statute “fairly narrowly” in a case involving former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, saying it covered only bribery or extortion schemes, McBride said.

Indeed, part of the shock is attributable to the innocuous nature of the favors McDonnell provided. The reaction of many lawyers and political insiders is best summed up as “That can get you convicted?!” Well, that is the question of the day and the subject of an appeal. (“I think it’s fair to say that the government stretched the statute a little bit for this case, and Judge Spencer gave them very favorable instructions that really in some ways — in my view — almost guaranteed conviction on the wire fraud count,” McBride is quoted as saying.)

Realization that the conviction may serve to criminalize a whole range of standard behavior that has been a fixture of politics at all levels of government for decades has sent political heads spinning. On his firm’s blog, a Virginia lawyer explains:

Under the defense version, the defense has a strong argument that Bob McDonnell did nothing “official” for Jonnie Williams and Star Scientific, because he did not award a contract, hire an employee, issue a license, pass a law, etc.  But under the prosecution version, where an “official action” may include “acts that a public official customarily performs, even if those actions are not described in any law, rule, or job description,” even something as minimal as asking an aide to report to him on what was happening with the Anatabloc studies could be seen as an “official action” because it is the sort of thing that governors customarily do.

McDonnell’s best chance lies with the precedent in the Mike Espy case:

   Sun-Diamond was fined $1.5 million for giving $5,900 in gifts to Clinton Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy — tickets to the Super Bowl, tickets to the U.S. Tennis Open, etc. The indictments did not charge that Espy specifically DID anything after receiving the gifts, so it was not prosecuted as a bribery or “honest services fraud” case. Granted, there were plenty of things that a Secretary of Agriculture does that could benefit Sun-Diamond, but there was no link between the gifts and whatever those official actions might be.

    The fine was reversed on appeal. . . Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion, for a unanimous court, said that the prosecutor’s interpretation of the law was so broad that even a high school principal could be in legal trouble for giving a souvenir baseball cap to a visiting Secretary of Education. The language that the defense particularly liked was where Scalia distinguished between actions that are assuredly “official acts” in some sense — such as “receiving [] sports teams at the White House, visiting [a] high school, and speaking to [] farmers about USDA policy” — and the narrower category of “official acts” that fall within the bribery laws. Surely, giving President Obama a Seattle Seahawks jersey when he welcomed the Seahawks to the White House after they won the Super Bowl last year would not constitute a bribe.

The prosecution will point to the conviction of Louisiana congressman William Jefferson, famously found to have stashed wads of cash in his freezer. In that case, “The Fourth Circuit approved jury instructions that said that an “act may be official even if it was not taken pursuant to responsibilities explicitly assigned by law. Rather official acts include those activities that have been clearly established by settled practice as part [of] a public official’s position.” If that is the rule, McDonnell is looking at a stiff jail sentence.

At this point, ingratitude should be the watchword when dealing with donors and rich friends. The safest advice to any politicians is that they give no tickets, invitations or introductions for anyone who has ever given them anything significant, be it a gift or campaign donations. Consider, for example, a big donor who raises millions for a president’s campaign. He then gets invited to a state dinner or gets an award for being a great American. That sort of conduct suddenly becomes high-risk.

The discretion afforded to prosecutors in the post-McDonnell era would be jaw-dropping. How many donors (big or small) have gotten state dinner invitations or access to government agencies (e.g. Solyndra) or even help navigating the bureaucracy, let alone an ambassadorship, in the past few years? Is a Republican prosecutor going to start indicting the Obamas and is a Democratic prosecutor going to go after the speaker of the House, the Senate minority leader and every Republican governor he can find? That is certainly a recipe for disaster.

While true that lawmakers themselves can set concrete rules and thereby limit prosecutorial free-roaming, the optics of passing legislation to protect themselves from corruption charges is so horrible that it may be impossible to achieve. A lot therefore rides on McDonnell’s appeal — for him, the entire political class and thousands of donors.
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« Reply #40 on: October 20, 2014, 07:31:14 PM »

Virginians to Bob McDonnell: Go to jail, go directly to jail
by Doug Thompson

A common mantra of politicians is something along the line of “let the people decide.”

The claim, of course, is false.  Politicians, as a rule, don’t give a damn about what “the people” think and realize that most people feel the same way about the politicians.

For convicted felon Bob McDonnell, former governor of Virginia, “letting the people decide” would put him in prison for his crimes against the Commonwealth.

“The people” want McDonald to spend some time behind bars for her part of the illegal solicitation of payoffs and bribes from former and disgraced dietary drug kingpin Jonnie Williams.

“The strong pubic support for prison times demonstrates the extent to which the public is furious with ethical misconduct in Richmond,” Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth told The Associated Press.  “These results demonstrate the depth of voter anger with politicians who are thought to take better care of the well-connected than of ordinary citizens.  Lawmakers ignore this resentment at their peril.”

A poll of 1,000 Virginians by Princeton Survey Associated International found 60 percent wanted to see McDonnell in the slammer.  Even a majority of Republicans (57 percent) wanted prison time for one of their own.

McDonnell and his wife have a sentencing hearing on Jan. 6.  Both could spend a decade or more in prison.

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« Reply #41 on: October 28, 2014, 10:33:54 AM »

Future of Bob McDonnell's gifts still cloudy
by  By Jim Nolan

The two gold Oscar de la Renta dresses. The Louis Vuitton shoes, handbag and raincoat. The golf clubs, bags, shirts and shoes.

The Rolex.

These luxury gifts — among the thousands of dollars in merchandise that onetime dietary supplement CEO Jonnie Williams purchased for former Gov. Bob McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell and their children — were the eye-popping centerpieces of the evidence prosecutors used at trial to build a successful corruption case against the former first couple.

Bob McDonnell’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6; Maureen McDonnell’s sentencing was rescheduled last week and will now be held Feb. 20. Lawyers for the couple have said they will appeal their convictions.

The sentencings and any future court proceeding could lead to the designer goods taking one more stroll down the legal runway in a courtroom. But once the legal process has concluded, the issue of what happens to the notorious baubles the McDonnells received will need to be sorted out, and the answer may not be so straightforward.

Potential outcomes

Typically, if the federal government seizes assets as part of a prosecution that results in a conviction, a hearing is held, with either the jury or the judge presiding, on a government motion seeking forfeiture of the items.

A third party can also file a claim seeking the assets, which also must be adjudicated. But in the absence of such a claim, the U.S. Marshals take possession of the assets and can liquidate them at their discretion.

In a narcotics prosecution, for example, any confiscated drugs are destroyed, while assets seized from the dealers — cars, houses, jewelry — are typically auctioned off.

Charles James, a former federal prosecutor and chief deputy Virginia attorney general, said the circumstances of a case sometimes put the government in the position of owning, albeit briefly, some oddball assets.

He recalled a prosecution of a drug ring in Richmond roughly 10 years ago in which the government ended up briefly assuming ownership of two motels that had been used as drug distribution centers.

“When a defendant’s assets aren’t liquid, the Marshals Service has to dispose of them, and at times that means everything from running a hotel to owning a ranch to auctioning artwork and luxury cars,” James said.

Money from the liquidation, he said, “ultimately funds new equipment and other functions for law enforcement, and often is a huge motivation for agencies to participate in federal investigations.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment on the gifts and their forfeiture, or potential use or sale going forward. The office even refused to say where the items in question are being stored.

Page 42 of the McDonnells’ Jan. 21 federal indictment provides a lengthy list of the items prosecutors contend are subject to forfeiture.

They include three pairs of designer shoes, five dresses, five golf shirts, three golf bags, two sets of golf clubs, assorted jackets, coats and sweaters, one silver Rolex watch engraved “71st Governor of Virginia,” and 30 boxes of Anatabloc — the dietary supplement Williams was trying to influence the McDonnells to promote.

But a number of the items listed in the indictment were, in fact, returned to Williams well before the couple were charged.

In March 2013, Maureen McDonnell returned a box of Williams’ gifts to his home shortly after her interview with state police. The box included the dress the former first lady had worn to her daughter’s 2011 wedding at the Executive Mansion and another dress she wore to commemorate her 35th wedding anniversary.

And in August 2013, Bob McDonnell and representatives of his legal team said that the former governor had returned to Williams the “tangible” gifts that were still in the governor’s possession, including the $6,500 engraved Rolex watch.

Williams ended up cooperating with the government against the first couple as part of a wide ranging transactional immunity agreement that allowed him to avoid potential criminal charges in the McDonnell case and an unrelated securities matter.

Williams’ property?

James, now in private practice as a partner at Williams Mullen, said an argument could be made that items Williams purchased that were returned to him would, in fact, be the property of the former Star Scientific CEO.

“The court’s authority to order forfeiture only extends to the defendant,” he said. “As a result Jonnie Williams could be rightfully viewed as the owner of the dress, the watch and other gifts, and the government could be compelled to return the evidence to Williams as the rightful owner, leaving him to decide how best to dispose of them.”

So what does a former dietary supplement salesman do with an Oscar De la Renta dress? Or a pair of black Rebecca Minkoff shoes? Or a Rolex inscribed “71st Governor of Virginia?”

Williams could not be reached for comment and his lawyer, former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, declined to comment.

But during the trial last August, Williams said he had no practical use for the dresses that Maureen McDonnell had returned to him — part of an attempt by the first lady, prosecutors successfully argued — to obstruct justice by making it look like the garments had been loans, not gifts.

People familiar with the case and the prosecution’s star witness said that if Williams were to retain ownership of the gifts he gave the McDonnells, he would likely seek to donate, or sell off the items with a view toward using the proceeds for charity.

Historic items

Whether they are auctioned by the government or let go by Williams, at least some of the ill-given gifts are likely to attract interest — from the curious to the serious, who recognize a historical value in items that figured in the first conviction of a governor in Virginia history.

The Valentine Museum has a collection of dresses worn by former Virginia first ladies, in addition to other gubernatorial memorabilia, such as Gov. Linwood Holton’s World War II uniform, and the pen set Gov. Andrew Jackson Montague used to sign the Virginia Constitution in 1902.

William Martin, director of the The Valentine Museum in Richmond, said some of the items that figured in the trial, such as a dress worn by the first lady and the inscribed Rolex watch, could be of interest to institutions like The Valentine, the Virginia Historical Society or the Library of Virginia.

“I think all of the collecting institutions in the city would probably work together to have something to mark what is a historical period,” said Martin.

Currently the only item at The Valentine from the four years of the McDonnell administration is a bottle of wine produced from the chambourcin grapes the first lady planted at the Executive Mansion to honor the 200th anniversary of the residence in 2013.
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« Reply #42 on: October 31, 2014, 12:17:05 PM »

Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell wants new trial over jury issues
By The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Lawyers for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Thursday he should get a new trial on corruption charges because the jury in his case was potentially biased and may have acted improperly.

McDonnell's lawyers filed court documents saying U.S. District Judge James Spencer did not properly examine whether potential jurors had been unfairly swayed by pre-trial news coverage. Defense attorneys also argued that Spencer should have investigated a potential claim that jurors who were ultimately picked may have discussed the trial among themselves before they were allowed to do so.

Spencer presided over the nearly six-week trial that ended Sept. 4 when the jury convicted Bob McDonnell on 11 counts and his wife, Maureen, on nine. The McDonnells were convicted of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.

Following the trial, McDonnell asked to be acquitted or granted a new trial because they contended prosecutors failed to prove they performed any "official acts" on behalf of Williams. On Thursday, his attorneys expanded on their argument.

"Even before Mr. McDonnell was indicted, opinion-makers in the media already convicted him," McDonnell's attorneys wrote.

The defense attorneys said Spencer's decision to deny their request to interview each of the approximately 150 potential jurors individually merits a new trial.

Juror Louis DeNitto was dismissed during the trial after his lawyer, James Watson, called prosecutors and said DeNitto had called Watson to discuss the case and indicated that the other jurors may have discussed the case, according to McDonnell's lawyers. After interviewing DeNitto and Watson, Spencer dismissed DeNitto but did not interview each remaining juror about whether they had improperly begun discussing the case.

Bob McDonnell's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6. Maureen McDonnell's is Feb. 20.
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