- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2015

Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell was sentenced to one year and one day behind bars Friday for her role in a corruption scheme in which she and her husband, former Gov. Bob McDonnell, were found guilty of promoting a wealthy businessman’s products in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.

Mrs. McDonnell was convicted on eight counts of an indictment handed up last January, shortly after Mr. McDonnell left office. Prosecutors had sought 18 months in prison for her, while defense attorneys wanted probation and 4,000 hours of community service.

Mrs. McDonnell, fighting back tears, apologized to her family and to Virginians and said she takes full responsibility.

“I would ask in your sentence today that you consider the punishment I’ve already received,” she said. “My marriage is broken, my family is hurting, and my reputation is in shatters.”

U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer called the case “puzzling and bizarre,” saying there appeared to be two versions of the former first lady — a loving mother and devoted wife and a first lady “who belittled and terrorized employees” at the Executive Mansion.

“How can a person become so bedazzled by material possessions that she can no longer see the difference between what’s appropriate and inappropriate,” Judge Spencer said.

He said Mrs. McDonnell can remain free on bond while she appeals.

Among the gifts were about $20,000 in designer clothes and accessories purchased for the former first lady by Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the former CEO of the company Star Scientific who testified during last year’s trial under immunity as the prosecution’s star witness.

Alluding to the judge’s statement at her husband’s sentencing that she had let the “serpent” into the Executive Mansion, Mrs. McDonnell said the “venom from that snake has poisoned my marriage, has poisoned my family and has poisoned the commonwealth that I love.”

She did not testify during the six-week trial. Mr. McDonnell, who was found guilty on 11 counts and was sentenced last month to two years in prison, did testify in his own defense during the trial.

Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement that the sentencing “brings to an end an unfortunate chapter in Virginia state government and an opportunity to move forward here in the Commonwealth.”

“I would like to thank the trial team, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations and the Virginia State Police for their efforts in this matter,” he said.

Mrs. McDonnell’s legal team said after the sentencing they plan to appeal.

William Burck, one of Mrs. McDonnell’s lawyers, thanked Judge Spencer “for showing great mercy today.”

“The sentence that she received, although we’re disappointed that she received a sentence of incarceration, we are very happy that the judge gave her a sentence that was lower than what the government sought and what the sentencing guidelines would have provided for,” Mr. Burck said.

Attorney Randy Singer said Mrs. McDonnell is also grateful for the “merciful” sentence Judge Spencer gave to Mr. McDonnell. Prosecutors had sought about a decade in prison for the former governor.

“I think what we saw today was a fundamentally good woman,” he said. “As Judge Spencer said, she loved her family … she loved this commonwealth, and she issued a heartfelt apology. She made mistakes. She owned the mistakes that she made.

“Having said that, the 4th circuit [has] already found substantial issues for appeal that could overturn this verdict,” he continued. “And we intend to file an appeal and pursue those issues vigorously. We still believe in Maureen’s innocence, and we intend to seek her complete vindication.”

This report is based in part on wire services.


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