RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned former Governor Bob McDonnell’s corruption convictions, but the final chapter of McDonnell’s two and half year ordeal has yet to be written.
McDonnell wants the final chapter to be: “it’s over.” However, that decision on whether he can be successfully prosecuted and convicted on narrower definitions of what “official acts” are has yet to be made. Many people will be involved in the process of whether that happens — we have no idea what the final chapter will be.
The Supreme Court decided an “official act” is not setting up a meeting, or holding a product launch in the Governor’s Mansion, or making phone calls. The “official act” comes by strong-arming the outcome of that meeting.
Appellate Court Expert Steve Emmert says there must be a link between intent and the act. The Supreme Court found that lacking at the lower court in the jury instructions.
“But if you do the ‘official act’ with the intention of leaning on a government official, or advising a government official to make a decision that would be illegal,” Emmert says.
The Fourth Circuit upheld the jury’s verdict against McDonnell because it was looking at only this case. The Supreme Court had a different task.
“The Supreme Court is afraid of catching innocent politicians, and they are not going to let this happen with a broad definition… They want to let the government re-try the case to prove whether the $170,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams to the McDonnell family fell within that narrower definition of ‘official act,'” Emmert says.
The Supreme Court wants a link between intent and the act.
Did McDonnell put his thumb print on the process? McDonnell argues he did not, and that what he did are routine courtesies that politicians do every day.
What will the Fourth Circuit do?
“My best guess: The Fourth Circuit probably will find there is enough for the government to try him again. It is broadly hinted in the Supreme Courts’ opinion,” Emmert added.
If the Fourth Circuit finds enough evidence of ‘official acts,’ it will order a new trial at the Federal District level, but then the U.S. attorneys have a decision to make.
“The second step is the U.S. attorney must decide whether he wants to go through another trial, or whether enough is enough. Do we want to go through another trial and the expense of a new trial?”
That will be a huge decision.
The prosecution of Bob McDonnell has cost millions of dollars. His wife, Maureen, is appealing her convictions.
The McDonnells are not where they thought they’d be two and half years after leaving office. Many thought McDonnell would be running for president. It is clear the toll for the McDonnells has been tragic, devastating and complete.