Former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged in federal court Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government. We’re bringing you the latest updates here.
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government.
Authorities alleged that McDonnell and his wife received gifts from executive Jonnie R. Williams again and again, lodging near-constant requests for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides. In exchange, authorities alleged that the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governorship to Williams’s struggling company, a small former cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.
The two were charged with 14 felony counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obtaining property under color of their official office and conspiring to the do the same. They were also charged with making false statements to a federal credit union. McDonnell was also charged with making a false statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the investigation.
Here’s a timeline illustrating McDonnell’s involvement with Star Scientific, the former cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements. Authorities allege that McDonnell and his wife received gifts from Jonnie R. Williams, the company’s chief executive.
In a statement issued Tuesday, McDonnell said he takes full responsibility for his “poor judgment” but said he did nothing illegal. The full statement:
“My fellow Virginians, earlier today federal prosecutors notified my attorneys that they have filed criminal charges against me and my wife Maureen, alleging that we violated federal law by accepting gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific. I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship. I never promised – and Mr. Williams and his company never received – any government benefit of any kind from me or my Administration. We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.”
Maureen McDonnell’s attorney, William A. Burck, of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, has sent The Post a statement:
“Maureen McDonnell is innocent. The Department of Justice has overreached to bring these charges. Thankfully, however, the Department is not the sole arbiter in our justice system, which ultimately is not ruled by the unfounded suspicions of prosecutors but rather the law and the facts as decided by the judge and the jury.”
“I’ve served with a lot more questionable people than this guy,” state Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) told The Post’s Laura Vozzella, referring to former governor Robert McDonnell.
Saslaw, the top Democrat in the Virginia Senate, was asked by McDonnell to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office this month to attest to his character. Saslaw said he and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) made the call together.
“I didn’t see it as a big deal. He called up and asked if I would do it, and I did,” Saslaw said last week about the call. “He’s not a criminal. He just is not.”
The Post’s Rosalind Helderman, who broke the McDonnell story, last year explained why this scandal matters:
“I am obviously troubled by the charges that federal prosecutors have made against Governor McDonnell and his wife Maureen and the message that this period in our history sends about how government in this Commonwealth is run,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement issued a few minutes ago. “As this case progresses, it is my sincerest hope that justice will be served and that Virginians get the answers to which they are entitled.”
McAuliffe (D) said he and his wife, Dorothy, offered the McDonnell family their thoughts and prayers.
“This is a sad day for Virginia, but I remain optimistic that we can work together to reform our system in order to prevent episodes like this from occurring ever again,” he said.
A look at the people involved in the gift scandal that led to today’s indictments.
The top Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates — Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), along with House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) and Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) — issued a statement Tuesday about the indictments.
“We are very disappointed by the news today,” they said. “We have all known Bob McDonnell for a long time. He is a good friend whom we deeply respect. He has served his country and Commonwealth for nearly his entire adult life. We know that he has always strived to serve with the utmost conviction and integrity. Admittedly, he has made mistakes in judgment. He has apologized for those actions, which we know all Virginians deeply appreciate.”
The legal system “must be allowed to run its course,” they added, saying they believe that the system will deliver the proper judgment.