- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

A federal judge in Richmond on Tuesday will sentence Bob McDonnell on public corruption charges that could land the former Virginia governor in prison for more than a decade.

Sentencing guidelines stipulate that McDonnell should receive around 10 years in prison after his September conviction on charges he accepted more than $150,000 in gifts from a wealthy businessman in exchange for preferential treatment.

But the governor’s defense lawyers have argued that McDonnell should only serve 6,000 hours, or 250 days, of community service.

Jeffrey Bellin, a law professor at The College of William and Mary, said judges have wide discretion in determining sentences but usually stick close to the guidelines.

“You’d expect [10 years] as a ballpark figure,” Mr. Bellin said. “I think it’s unlikely it will be community service only.”

McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, was also found guilty on similar charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20. Mr. Bellin said the decision Tuesday by U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer will likely set a precedent for that case.

“How those are resolved by this judge in this sentencing will help determine how they’re likely to be resolved in her sentence,” he said.

Meanwhile, the former governor has seen more than 440 letters filed to the court on his behalf, including one from Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat and a former Virginia governor.

“It seems fair to examine any request for mercy by exploring whether the petitioner has been merciful in similar circumstances,” Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Kaine lauded McDonnell’s efforts to change Virginia’s lifelong ban on voting for convicted felons and the return of voting rights to 8,000 people.

“I am convinced that Governor McDonnell showed mercy to convicted felons not for political reasons or because he had anything personal to gain by doing so,” Mr. Kaine wrote. “The merciful attitude exhibited by this positive action is characteristic of him as an individual.”

The oldest of the McDonnells’ children also wrote a letter in support of her father, calling him “the least materialistic person that I have ever known,” but condemned her mother.

“My mom, in contrast, has always been concerned about getting discounts or freebees,” Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky wrote. “She hid her coordination with people for free or discounted things or services, and she didn’t communicate with my dad because she knew he would not approve.”

The McDonnells’ trial was often a public display of the couple’s deteriorated marriage, with some of the former governor’s supporters blaming his wife for the whole trouble.

“The testimony about my mom was not just part of a defense strategy and was not an attempt to ‘throw her under the bus’ but, unfortunately, was the reality,” Ms. Zubowski wrote.

Further complicating things is the disagreement over just how much money the McDonnells accepted as gifts.

“The parties disagree about how much money the governor got,” Mr. Bellin said. “The defense is saying ‘Well, if they’re loans, then the value of what the governor got is small,’ while the government is saying, ‘Well, they weren’t really loans, so they’re worth the full $120,000.’ ”

Regardless of what McDonnell is sentenced to, he is unlikely to be imprisoned immediately, legal experts said. Given that the government seems to consider him a low flight risk, he is likely to instead receive a mandatory date that he must voluntarily report to prison. The former governor’s attorneys on Monday also formally asked Judge Spencer to allow McDonnell to remain free pending appeals in his case.

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