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Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who was potentially facing as much as 10-12 years in prison based on his conviction on corruption charges last year, found himself on the receiving end of a significant break today when he was sentenced to two years in Federal Prison:

A federal judge sentenced former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell to two years in prison Tuesday — a term far lower than what prosecutors had sought and one that means the popular politician will be free before his 63rd birthday.

U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer said he was moved by the outpouring of support for McDonnell, the governor’s military service, and the facts of the case, though he could not ignore the jury’s verdict.

“A price must be paid,” Spencer said. “Unlike Pontius Pilate, I can’t wash my hands of it all. A meaningful sentence must be imposed.”

The penalty is a win for defense attorneys, who had asked that the former governor be sentenced to mere community service even as prosecutors initially advocated for a prison term stretching longer than a decade. They later asked that McDonnell spend 6 and a half years behind bars.

While McDonnell’s family members cried softly, the former governor stood with no visible reaction as the sentence was delivered. Afterward, he gave long hugs to several of his children and a quick peck on the cheek to his wife.

The U.S. probation office had determined that federal sentencing guidelines called for a term of incarceration between 10 years and a month and 12 years and seven months. Spencer on Tuesday determined a range of 6 and a half years to eight years and a month was more appropriate, but said even that “would be ridiculous, under these facts.”

Spencer ordered the former governor to report to prison on Feb. 9. He did not immediately rule on a request from McDonnell to keep his freedom even longer, until all his appeals are adjudicated.

(…)

Prosecutors had urged Spencer to craft a sentence that took into consideration the “enormous power” of the governor’s office and the extent to which McDonnell abused that power. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry said in court Tuesday that McDonnell’s misdeeds were “crimes of choice, not necessity,” and that he had “shown no true remorse in this case for these crimes.”

“These crimes are unprecedented in Virginia’s 226 year history,” Dry said.

For their part, defense attorneys dismissed the notion that McDonnell blamed others and highlighted the good he had done in the military, in public office and even in his personal life. In filings accompanied by more than 440 letters from supporters, defense attorneys argued that McDonnell’s family had suffered enough through a trial that put their personal failings on public display. The McDonnells’ ordeal alone, defense attorneys said, was enough to deter any public official from making similar decisions.

Defense attorneys argued that several charitable organizations could benefit from McDonnell’s skills and urged the judge to allow him to work for one of them instead of imposing the “extreme and unjustified” prison term requested by prosecutors. That penalty, they said, would allow McDonnell “to spend the next three years of his life helping the poor and the needy and repaying the debt to society that he has incurred here.”

“He has suffered personal, professional, and financial consequences that will haunt him for the rest of his life,” defense attorneys wrote. “Sending Mr. McDonnell to prison at all, much less for the length of time the Government requests, would only exacerbate the punishment being suffered by the McDonnell family with no corresponding public policy benefit.”

McDonnell’s attorneys say that they still intend to appeal the verdict in the case, and I suspect that the Judge will grant an appropriate motion from McDonnell to continue his bail while that appeal is pending, so it seems unlikely that he’ll actually be going to Federal Prison on February 9th. In any case, though, I think that Judge Spencer probably erred on the side of justice here in showing some leniency to the former Governor. There was no evidence presented at trial that McDonnell’s crimes involved the misuse or misdirection of public funds, and indeed he ended up returning all the money that he had received from the businessman at the center of this bizarre tale. As for the rest of it, his political career is obviously over, he is going to lose his license to practice law due to his conviction if that hasn’t happened already, and he’s not likely to serve in  position of public trust ever again. I’m not sure that putting him in Federal Prison, even minimum security prison, for six to eight years seems like it would have been something of an overreaction to me.

In any case, next up in this case other than McDonnell’s likely appeal will be Maureen McDonnell’s sentencing before the same Judge on February 20th. While Judge Spencer is not bound by his decision today in deciding on an appropriate sentence for Virginia’s former First Lady, the factors there seem to be the same as they are here. Some kind of prison sentence is appropriate, but something long seems like it would be overly harsh under the circumstances. If anything, I suspect that Mrs. McDonnell will end up getting a slightly shorter sentence than her husband, though it’s also likely she’ll end up with basically the same sentence. Obviously, given the state of their marriage, they’d be unlikely to serve their sentences together in any case.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    defense attorneys argued that McDonnell’s family had suffered enough

    Gawd I hate that phrase.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. In any case, though, I think that Judge Spencer probably erred on the side of justice here in showing some leniency to the former Governor.

    What a load of horseshit, the judge should have sentenced him to at least 10 years. McDonnell continues to refuse to accept any responsibility for his crimes and continues to use to blame his wife for everything.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  3. Gustopher says:

    Spencer on Tuesday determined a range of 6 and a half years to eight years and a month was more appropriate, but said even that “would be ridiculous, under these facts.”

    Of course. It’s completely ridiculous to jail our betters for milking their position. He paid back everything we caught him with, isn’t that enough?

    It’s nice of the judge that he decided to give him a small sentence and pretend that justice had been served. And let him out of bail while he exhausts his appeals.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  4. Dave D says:

    At least the justice system has finally quit pretending for equal justice under the law. Our betters clearly deserve the benefit of the doubt and to serve cushy sentences in community service because they can help the poors and all that. I mean in the end isn’t being disbarred and no longer having a career in politics penalty enough for him?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  5. CrustyDem says:

    1) No crime of necessity (simple greed).
    2) Extreme abuse of power
    3) No remorse or admission of guilt.

    But he IS an older white gentleman. I’ll be surprised if he sees the inside of a cell. American justice is served again.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Just us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Meanwhile, there is a man in the Federal prison system serving Life without Parole because he shared a joint with a prostitute.*

    * I kid you f******’n not.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  8. C. Clavin says:

    I hope that he recieves a trans-vaginal ultrasound as part of the intake procedure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  9. C. Clavin says:

    I know he is a Republican…and most stupid people are in fact Republican…but I still can’t understand his use of the word “vindication”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  10. PJ says:

    Obviously, given the state of their marriage, they’d be unlikely to serve their sentences together in any case.

    That’s sad, there was suite ready for them at the minimum security Richmond Coed Prison and Country Club. (The Richmond Coed Prison and Country Club only accepts white members who have committed white collar crimes and have been recommended by at least two former or current members.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  11. wr says:

    So… if you’re black and poor and you jaywalk, you got shot to death by the cops, and that’s justice.

    If you’re black and poor and you sell individual cigarettes, you get choked to death by the cops and that’s justice.

    If you’re white and powerful and you just sell out your entire state to some sleazy crook because you’re just not rich enough, you get a slap on the wrist and that’s justice.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  12. wr says:

    Oh, and if you drive through a suburban neighborhood shooting at people with an automatic weapon — sorry, semi-auo-automatic for the autism-spectrum gun nuts here — while wearing body armor, you get politely taken into custody by the police as long as you’re a white woman, and that is justice in America, too.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  13. Not Really says:

    I’m not sure that putting him in Federal Prison, even minimum security prison, for six to eight years seems like it would have been something of an overreaction to me.

    You can tell Doug is blowing smoke when he can’t form a coherent sentence to convey the BS he’s offering.

    Bob lost or will lose his license to practice law. To a lawyer that seems to be a death sentence. To everyone else it seems trivial considering the crime he committed.

    I’m a layman but I know a lot of lawyers and judges and I imagine most would agree but that’s a sign of the problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  14. Tony W says:

    This seems like a fair sentence, it’s not like he was selling loosies on the streets or something serious like that.

    There is never a bad time in this country to be white and powerful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    Criming while white.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Tony W says:

    Some kind of prison sentence is appropriate, but something long seems like it would be overly harsh under the circumstances. If

    It’s funny how the tough-on-crime conservatives are always talking about “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    For those who’d like to see Mr. McDonnell’s philosophy on crime

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. PJ says:

    @Tony W:

    It’s funny how the tough-on-crime conservatives are always talking about “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    For those who’d like to see Mr. McDonnell’s philosophy on crime

    I had a look at that yesterday to see if there was anything useful. Not sure if you noticed, but there’s nothing in the qoutes/views about white collar crime.
    Drugs, gangs, and violence, but nothing about bribes, fraud, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @PJ:

    Not sure if you noticed, but there’s nothing in the qoutes/views about white collar crime. Drugs, gangs, and violence, but nothing about bribes, fraud, etc.

    Well, that’s even worse. How convenient for McDonnell that he’s tough on all the crimes other people commit but not tough at all on the crimes he was committing himself. It’s pure hypocrisy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Tony W says:

    @PJ: Yeah – white people crime doesn’t bring out the fear voter the way thugs and gun-grabbing and random-acts-of-violence does.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @Tony W: Even though the end result might be just as nasty. One thug shooting someone? Horrors! But someone coming in and squandering the company’s entire pension fund in outrageous salaries for the venture capitalists, running the company into the ground, then putting on a sad face and saying “so sorry, no money, will have to throw everyone out into the street and too bad for all you retired people; you’re suddenly penniless”–well, that’s just a “standard risk of conducting business.” We won’t even drag anyone into court.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Tony W says:

    @grumpy realist: The funny thing is that the second scenario is far more likely to affect the average 1%er than the thug on the street scenario. It’s amazing how bad at math people are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0