Bob McDonnell, wife convicted of public corruption

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/AP) - A federal jury in Richmond has found former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife guilty of corruption, fraud and bribery charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Richmond announced the verdict was reached just before 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

The jury convicted Bob McDonnell of 11 of the 13 counts he faced; Maureen McDonnell was convicted of nine of the 13 counts she had faced. Both bowed their heads and wept as a chorus of “guilty” kept coming from the court clerk.

The former governor, his head in his hands, began crying as soon as he heard the first sob from his daughter Cailin. Other family members and supporters followed suit. The weeping became louder, and McDonnell’s sobbing grew more intense, with each succeeding finding of guilt.

The couple left the courtroom separately and remained apart. Bob McDonnell left first and walked into a witness waiting room; Maureen McDonnell came out later, hugging one of her daughters while weeping loudly. She went into a separate waiting room.

Bob McDonnell seemed ashen as he was mobbed by TV cameras before climbing into a waiting blue Mercedes. “All I can say is that my trust remains in the Lord,” he said quietly.

Juror Kathleen L. Carmody said it was wrenching to watch the McDonnell family’s teary reaction.

“When the verdicts were read, you could not be human and not feel sorry, or empathy or compassion for the McDonnell family,” she said.

Carmody said she voted for McDonnell and thought he was a great governor, but added: “The facts spoke for themselves.”

Juror Robin Trujillo, who moved to the Richmond area about a year and a half ago and wasn’t familiar with the McDonnells before the trial, said it “wasn’t just one light bulb” that swayed the jury toward a guilty verdict. But after deciding on guilt on the first conspiracy charge “everything kind of fit together like a puzzle,” she said.

Bob McDonnell’s attorney, Henry Asbill, said he will appeal. Asbill said he was shocked, surprised and disappointed. He complained that prosecutors sought to criminalize routine political behavior, and said “I have no idea what the jury deliberated about.”

William Burck, Maureen’s attorney, declined comment.

U.S. Attorney Dana Boente and FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam Lee — both prosecutors in the case — spoke outside the courthouse after the verdict. “This was a challenging case for our team. This was a challenging case for the Commonwealth,” Boente said.

Special Coverage: McDonnell Corruption Trial

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were each charged in a 14-count indictment for taking bribes to promote a dietary supplement.

The couple was convicted on nearly all the counts involving doing favors for Jonnie Williams, the CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans that they admitted taking.

Maureen McDonnell was also convicted of obstructing justice after the scandal broke, by returning a designer gown that Williams had bought for her in New York City, along with a handwritten note that tried to diminish its value by suggesting they had agreed Williams could give the dress to his daughters or to charity.

Jurors acquitted them of bank fraud on loan applications that failed to mention the money Williams lent them.

Thursday was the jurors’ third day of deliberations. The McDonnells face up to 20 years in prison each for each conviction when they are sentenced Jan. 6.

The 14 counts are listed below with the jury’s decision on each:

COUNT ONE:
Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Wire Fraud
Robert McDonnell – GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell – GUILTY

COUNT TWO:
Honest-Services Wire Fraud
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - GUILTY

COUNT THREE:
Honest-Services Wire Fraud
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell -GUILTY

COUNT FOUR:
Honest-Services Wire Fraud
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - NOT GUILTY

COUNT FIVE:
Conspiracy to Obtain Property under Color of Official Right
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - GUILTY

COUNT SIX:
Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - GUILTY

COUNT SEVEN:
Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - GUILTY

COUNT EIGHT:
Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - GUILTY

COUNT NINE:
Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - NOT GUILTY

COUNT TEN:
Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - GUILTY

COUNT ELEVEN:
Obtaining Property under Color of Official Right
Robert McDonnell - GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - NOT GUILTY

COUNT TWELVE:
False Statement
Robert McDonnell - NOT GUILTY

COUNT THIRTEEN:
False Statement
Robert McDonnell - NOT GUILTY
Maureen McDonnell - NOT GUILTY

COUNT FOURTEEN:
Obstruction of Official Proceeding
Maureen McDonnell - GUILTY

Widely considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign, McDonnell was reduced to living with the family’s priest in a church rectory during the trial.

The couple’s defense strategy depended in large part on persuading jurors that their marriage itself was a fraud and that they were unable to speak to each other, let alone conspire to accept bribes.

Testifying in his own defense, McDonnell insisted that he provided nothing more than routine political courtesies to the former CEO of Star Scientific, a Virginia-based dietary supplements company. His wife’s lawyers, meanwhile, said Williams preyed on her vulnerability after she developed a “crush” on the businessman.

Maureen McDonnell did not take the stand even as her private life was exposed, with staff from the governor’smansion and aides testifying that her erratic behavior risked becoming a political embarrassment.

Williams, who testified under immunity, said he spent freely on the McDonnells to secure their help promoting his tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement Anatabloc as a treatment for ulcers, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Williams declined to comment on the verdicts, his attorney said.

His gifts included nearly $20,000 in designer clothing and accessories for Maureen McDonnell, a $6,500 engraved Rolex watch for Bob, $15,000 in catering for their daughter Cailin’s wedding, free family vacations and golf outings for their boys. Williams also provided three loans totaling $120,000.

As the gifts rolled in, the McDonnells appeared at promotional events and even hosted a launch luncheon for Anatabloc at the governor’s mansion. Williams and his associates also were allowed into a reception for Virginia health care leaders at the mansion, and McDonnell arranged meetings with state health officials as Williams sought state money and the credibility of Virginia’s universities for research that would support Anatabloc.

Defense lawyers argued that none of these were favors for bribes, because the governor didn’t consider the favors to be anything special, the research grant applications were never submitted, and being first lady isn’t an official position.

If she’s not a public official and the couple weren’t speaking, there was no conspiracy, they said.

Witnesses — including the former governor himself — said Maureen McDonnell despised being first lady, and was prone to such angry outbursts that the mansion staff threatened a mass resignation. McDonnell said he began working unnecessarily late, just to avoid her anger.

While they initially showed up at the courthouse hand-in-hand, they split up once the judge refused to try them separately, and the former governor testified that they were living apart during the trial.

If Maureen McDonnell was portrayed as erratic, the powerful and straight-arrow image her politician husband fostered didn’t fare much better. The defense introduced a September 2011 email from McDonnell to his wife lamenting the deterioration of their marriage, complaining about her “fiery anger” and begging her to work with him to repair the relationship.

While several witnesses described the first lady’s relationship with Williams as inappropriate and flirtatious, none suggested it was physical, and Williams testified that his dealings with both McDonnells were all business.

Prosecutors said the McDonnells turned to Williams in desperation because they were grappling with $90,000 in credit card debt and annual losses of $40,000 to $60,000 on family-owned vacation rentals in Virginia Beach. Williams said he wrote the first $50,000 check to Maureen after she complained about their money troubles and offered to help his company.

Virginia has among the nation’s weakest political ethics laws, and McDonnell repeatedly stressed that he did nothing to violate them. But this case was federal, and both prosecutors and FBI officials said the verdicts send a message that state laws provide no shelter from corruption prosecutions.

Virginia’s current Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats who were elected as the scandal developed, have imposed strict gift bans and ethics policies on their own staff, and called for tougher rules than the ethics reform that passed the Republican-controlled legislature this summer.

“We have a long way to go to restore the public’s trust,” Herring said in a statement. “It should be crystal clear that the people of Virginia deserve real ethics reform.”

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Associated Press Writers Alan Suderman, Steve Szkotak and Michael Felberbaum contributed to this report.

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