Local attorney surprised by McDonnell sentence

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — When the sentencing hearing began Tuesday morning, everyone, including Norfolk attorney Andy Protogyrou, thought former Governor Bob McDonnell would spend years and years behind bars.

“I thought he was getting 10 years,” Protogyrou told WAVY.com.

But to everyone’s surprise, the former Governor — who was found guilty of 11 federal charges of public corruption — was sentenced to two years in prison. McDonnell’s attorneys couldn’t be happier.

“We believe in him,” said McDonnell’s defense attorney John Brownlee. “We believe he is innocent, and that being said, we are pleased he didn’t get ten years.”

Special Coverage: McDonnell Trial

“I’d be doing back flips down Broad Street,” Protogyrou said when asked about his reaction had he represented McDonnell.

Protogyrou has spent decades defending clients in federal court. He believes Judge James Spencer looked at McDonnell’s crime and wanted to give the appropriate punishment.

“If I was sitting as the federal judge in that case, I would want to know the specific facts of all the prosecutions that were similarly situated,” Protogyrou said. “Bob McDonnell’s is slightly different in his factual patterns. Blagojevich was selling a seat.”

Rod Blagojevich was Governor of Illinois. He’s now serving a 14-year prison sentence for soliciting bribes for a U.S. Senate seat.  Protogyrou said what McDonnell did never rose to that level.

“That’s not necessarily the same correlation here,” Protogyrou said. “I think the court had to consider: Johnny Williams walked. He came out of this with nothing.”

Protogryou also believes the judge may have used past events before the trial even started.

“I think that the judge knew in the back of his mind that a plea agreement had been offered that would have allowed [Bob McDonnell] to serve no time, to receive probation and to have kept his pension,” Protogyrou said.

That pension is now gone, and soon the former Governor will have to report to Federal Marshals to start his prison sentence.

“There are certain facilities that are probably very appropriate for Bob McDonnell,” Protogyrou said. “One of them is in Butner in North Carolina. That’s where Madoff was sent to, ultimately.”

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