Former Va. Gov. McDonnell’s conviction upheld on appeal

WASHINGTON — The corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has been affirmed by a federal appeals court panel.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted last September of taking more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting the tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory Anatabloc. The former governor was sentenced to two years in prison; his wife, to one year and one day.

“With power comes influence,” the panel of three judges wrote, noting that McDonnell had power over the state’s tobacco commission, universities and health plans. Prosecutors had charged that Williams’ company could be helped by all of these.

McDonnell’s lawyers had argued that the trial judge abused his discretion in rulings on evidence and questioning the jury. The panel found that the judge acted properly, and that he government exceeded its burden to prove a “quid pro quo.”

“The temporal relationship between the ‘quids’ and ‘quos’ — the gifts, payments, loans, and favors and the official acts — constitute compelling evidence of corrupt intent,” the panel ruled.

The panel also wrote that the jury instructions were proper, as was the decision not to hold separate trials for the McDonnells.

The former governor “received a fair trial and was duly convicted by a jury of his fellow Virginians. We have no cause to undo what has been done,” the panel concluded.

McDonnell said in a statement that in 40 years of public service, “I have never violated my oath of office nor disregarded the law.  I remain highly confident in the justice system and the grace of our God that full vindication will come in time.”

His lawyers added that “We will review the opinion carefully and continue to pursue all legal options.  The fight for justice for our client is far from over.”

McDonnell has been free pending this appeal. He could appeal again to the full Fourth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. His wife’s appeal is proceeding separately; she is also free until it’s heard.

In a statement, Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said simply that he is pleased with the panel’s ruling.

Read the full opinion:

McDonnell Opinion

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