Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Politics

Feds to drop charges against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. — Federal prosecutors will not pursue another case against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell or his wife after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his corruption conviction last month, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said Thursday.

The decision ends a yearlong legal saga for the former governor and once-rising Republican star, who was convicted in 2014 of violating federal bribery law by accepting luxury gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement.

The high court unanimously held that McDonnell's actions were distasteful but didn't necessarily violate federal bribery laws.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in 2014 of doing favors for wealthy vitamin executive Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.

Williams, who was seeking state university research on his company's signature anti-inflammatory product, loaned the couple tens of thousands of dollars to help them pay debts and keep their money-losing Virginia Beach vacation rental properties afloat. Williams bought nearly $20,000 in designer clothing and accessories for Maureen McDonnell and a Rolex watch for Bob McDonnell. He also paid for trips and golf outings for the couple and their children, and gave $15,000 for catering at McDonnell daughter's wedding.

At issue in McDonnell's case was a federal bribery law that makes it illegal for a public official to agree to take "official action" in exchange for money, gifts and other things of value.

In vacating McDonnell's conviction, the Supreme Court ruled that setting up a meeting or organizing an event — without doing more — isn't considered an "official act."

While McDonnell's actions may have been "distasteful," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the high court's concern "is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes and ball gowns," but with "the broader legal implications of the government's boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute."

Several state lawmakers and members of Virginia's congressional delegation had urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch not to retry McDonnell, arguing that he and his family have suffered enough. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has also questioned the need for another case.

"It is time to move on," McAuliffe said after the Supreme Court decision. "This man has paid the price."

Prosecutors also decided to drop charges against Maureen McDonnell, who was sentenced to one year in prison. A federal appeals court put her case on hold until the Supreme Court examined her husband's case.

"We thank the Department of Justice for the care with which they reviewed the case, Maureen McDonnell's attorney William A. Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said after the charges were dropped. "We are thrilled and thankful that Maureen can now move on with her life."

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