Defense: Ex-gov should volunteer, not go to prison

RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) — Lawyers for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell have asked a judge to sentence him to community service instead of prison for his federal corruption convictions.

In a sentencing brief filed Tuesday, defense attorneys suggested 6,000 hours of full-time community service over three years. Prosecutors had not yet filed their sentencing brief.

Special Coverage: McDonnell Corruption Trial

“It is a great request,” said Norfolk defense attorney Andy Protogyrou.  “There is no doubt about it, in fact, it is so far out of the box, because the sentence is so high.”

Protogyrou said, however, that the chance of the former governor not serving any prison time is unlikely at best.

McDonnell, a Republican who was once on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, will be sentenced Jan. 6 for promoting a dietary supplement in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. He faces up to decades in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines likely will call for much less.

“It is an extreme request on the court,” Protogyrou added. “I have never seen the court give that many hours of community service in light of a 10-year sentence.”

Included in the documents filed Tuesday in federal court were more than 400 letters written from McDonnell supporters to the judge.

Document: List of letters on behalf of Bob McDonnell

“They will review every single letter,” Protogyrou said.

The letters were written by school teachers, attorneys, real estate agents and even a grandmother. But well-known names — like Senator Tim Kaine, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, Pat Robertson, Congressman Scott Rigell and Jerry Falwell Jr. — were also among those who wrote letters.

The letters reference personal experiences with the former governor that exemplify his character and integrity. Sessoms, for example, said McDonnell always did right by the city of Virginia Beach, especially when it came to money for road and bridge repairs.

All five McDonnell children and McDonnell’s sister Maureen also wrote to the judge. Son Robert said his dad is a loving man who served his beloved state of Virginia. Daughter Rachel wrote that no one is perfect and her dad is a firm believer in forgiveness and second chances.

“I think the court by law will consider everything that is put before them,” Protogyrou said.

Locally based Operation Blessing said it would gladly accept the former Virginia governor’s service, since he has worked with them in the past.

“We have a history with Bob that began nearly ten years ago when he and his family volunteered with us in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and we saw the positive impact of having someone with Bob’s skills and experience volunteer with our organization,” said Operation Blessing International President Bill Horan via a press release Tuesday.

McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, was also convicted and will be sentenced Feb. 20.


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