On February 20, 2015, Maureen McDonnell, the wife of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison – concluding an unusual public corruption trial that garnered significant media attention.
The January 2014 indictment of the Governor and his wife included fourteen counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, obtaining property under the color of official right, false statements and obstruction. The government presented evidence at trial to support allegations that Jonnie Williams, Sr., former CEO of Star Scientific, Inc. (a dietary supplement company) furnished the Governor and his wife with gifts to induce the Governor to prod the state’s health division and state universities to perform scientific studies that would legitimize the company’s supplements.
Public corruption cases against political spouses are virtually unheard of because these spouses do not have their hands on the levers of power. At trial, attorneys for the couple attempted to exploit this fact. A key component of the couple’s defense strategy was to point the finger at Maureen McDonnell, arguing that only she had a relationship with Williams. She is not a public official; therefore, if the jury believed she acted alone, they would not convict the couple.
This strategy did not succeed as a defense, but did result in publicly placing Maureen McDonnell in an unfavorable light, particularly in press reports of the trial. The jury rejected the notion and found that both the husband and wife had accepted $177,000 in loans, vacations, and luxury goods from Williams in exchange for political access. Bob McDonnell was found guilty on all eleven counts of corruption and one count of making a false statement. Maureen McDonnell was found guilty of eight counts of corruption and one count of obstruction. Presiding U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer acquitted her of the obstruction claim based on insufficient evidence.
The Guidelines calculation in Maureen McDonnell’s Presentence Report was for a sentence of 63 to 78 months. However, after Bob McDonnell (whose Guidelines range was 78-97 months) was sentenced to two years in prison, the United States asked the Court to sentence her to 18 months. Her attorneys asked for a sentence of probation and 4,000 hours of community service.
Bob McDonnell is out on bail pending an appeal of his conviction.
In November of 2014, Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP opened the firm’s sixth office in Richmond, Virginia. Kenneth D. McArthur, Jr. joined Pietragallo to run the Richmond, Virginia office. He practices in the areas of Health Care, Complex Litigation (with a focus on antitrust litigation, multi-district litigation and class actions), Business/Corporate, and Federal and State Qui Tam Litigation.