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Live updates: Sentencing of Robert McDonnell

January 6, 2015
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell arrives at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for his corruption trial sentencing on Tuesday in Richmond. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell arrives at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for his corruption trial sentencing on Tuesday in Richmond. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in September of lending the prestige of the governor’s office to Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for $177,000 in loans, vacations and luxury items. Maureen McDonnell’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20.

 Interactive: McDonnell gifts list | Bob vs. Jonnie | Twitter: Latest |  The trial | Indictment

  • John Woodrow Cox
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This is the last post for the McDonnell liveblog, but this article (and The Post’s homepage) will continue to be updated throughout the evening, so check back often. Thanks for following along.

  • Rachel Weiner
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Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, leave the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 24 in Richmond. McDonnell and his wife Maureen pleaded not guilty to a 14-count criminal indictment from federal grand jury charging that the couple violated federal corruption laws.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, leave the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in January in Richmond. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Maureen McDonnell arrived in court about 20 minutes after her husband, with whom she has not lived since before their trial began. Her arrival appeared to be a surprise, even to some of those closest to the former governor.

After the judge’s ruling, Robert F. McDonnell gave his children long hugs and his wife a brief kiss on the cheek. She stayed in the courtroom, being comforted by family members as she sobbed. When the former governor went outside to speak to reporters with their daughters behind him, she ducked out and left separately, flanked by their two sons.

  • John Woodrow Cox
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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe speaks during a debate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe speaks during a debate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. (Steve Helber/AP)

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s statement on the judge’s decision to imprison McDonnell: “Today’s sentencing brings an end to one of the most difficult periods in the history of Virginia state government. Like many Virginians, I am saddened by the effect this trial has had on our Commonwealth’s reputation for clean, effective government. As we put this period behind us, I look forward to working with Virginia leaders on both sides of the aisle to restore public trust in our government.”

  • John Woodrow Cox
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Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, second from right, hold hands with his daughter, Cailin Young, as they exit the federal courthouse Friday in Richmond.  (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell hold hands with his daughter, Cailin Young. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has been sentenced to two years in prison. Here’s a look at the corruption case against him, by the numbers.

  • Rachel Weiner
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Defense attorneys credited former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder with providing key testimony at Robert   McDonnell’s sentencing.

“I thought Gov. Wilder was extraordinary,” attorney John Brownlee told reporters. “He came in today and he was literally brilliant. Probably one of the best defense witnesses I have ever seen in my 20-plus years in court.” He called it “important and special” that Wilder, a Democrat who served as governor from 1990 to 1994, testified on McDonnell’s behalf.

Fellow defense attorney Henry Asbill said that he was personally moved by all the letters written on McDonnell’s behalf. “I had a hard time not crying,” he said. But he added that he’s choked up in court before: “Weddings, funerals and sentencing, I cry.”

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Defense attorneys Henry Asbill and John Brownlee told reporters outside court that Robert F. McDonnell’s legal team will continue to fight for the former governor.

“Sometimes in a case like this, justice is a marathon,” Asbill said. “We will never give up this case.”

Brownlee said he appreciated that Judge Spencer saw McDonnell as a “human being” in giving him a far lighter sentence than federal guidelines suggested. But, he said, “We will continue to fight for his innocence. … I believe Bob McDonnell is an innocent man.”

  • Rachel Weiner
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U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente and FBI Special Agent Adam Lee would not comment outside court on Judge Spencer’s sentence, which fell far below what prosecutors had requested.

Boente said that judges “sometimes see things differently,” but that Spencer “gave a good explanation” for his thinking.

“Any prison time for an elected official is punishment,” Lee said. Investigators and prosecutors did “an outstanding job administrating this incredibly complex case.”

There’s “no celebration,” he said, “just an abiding sense that we did the right thing.”

  • Rachel Weiner
  • ·

Standing outside the courthouse after his sentencing, former governor Robert F. McDonnell said that while he was “deeply, deeply sorry” for some of his actions, he has “never, ever betrayed my sacred oath of office.”

McDonnell walked out of the building clasping the hands of his daughters Cailin and Jeanine, both of whom cried after the two-year sentence was read. McDonnell, who did not cry, then hugged all of his children and kissed his wife on the cheek. Maureen McDonnell remained in the courtroom, sobbing, while her husband and his legal team left to fill out paperwork related to the judge’s decision.

While he thanked the judge “for the mercy he displayed to me today,” McDonnell told reporters that he “disagree[s] with the verdict and is filing an appeal today or tomorrow.

“I have immense faith in the justice system,” he said, but his “ultimate vindication” will come from Jesus Christ.

McDonnell thanked his children, his wife and other family members for being “unbelievably resolute,” and his friends for their “undying kindnesses” throughout his ordeal.

  • John Woodrow Cox
  • ·

Read e-mails from the first lady, the wedding catering contract and details of a luncheon at the governor’s mansion that marked the launch of a new Star Scientific supplement.

  • John Woodrow Cox
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  • John Woodrow Cox
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From Rod Blagojevich to Ray Nagin to Phil Hamilton, corrupt politicians have a long history of getting caught and being sent to prison. Check out how McDonnell’s sentence compares to the others in this graphic.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
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During his lengthy remarks prior to sentencing, Judge James Spencer  noted that McDonnell had “never come onto my radar” until he ran for attorney general in 2005.

This appeared to be a pointed reference to a television report that had indicated that Spencer might hold a bias against McDonnell because he had once voted against appointing his wife, Margaret Spencer, to the Virginia Supreme Court. McDonnell’s vote had not been determinant — he was at the time in the minority of the House of Delegates, where Democrats nominated Spencer over his objection. She did not receive the appointment after the state Senate deadlocked 20-20 on the decision. Ultimately, she was appointed to the Circuit Court of Richmond.

The television report had prompted various blog items discussing Spencer’s possible bias and calculating the loss of pension income because his wife did not receive the Supreme Court appointment.

Spencer said he only truly became aware of McDonnell when he ran for governor in 2009, and then only from television ads. He bemoaned that among many moving letters he had received from McDonnell’s supporters, there were some that “continued to cast blame on others or to see conspirators behind every tree.”

“The bottom line is, I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me,” the judge said.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

In a winding, roughly 15-minute speech before he imposed McDonnell’s two-year sentence, U.S. District Judge James Spencer mused on the fairness of the trial, the history of federal sentencing guidelines, the sadness of the case and even what personal knowledge he had of the former governor.

Spencer tipped that he would probably impose a lenient term when he talked of how the sentencing guidelines — once mandatory — would now allow him to show some discretion. Referring to a sentence of seven or eight years, he said: “That would be unfair, it would be ridiculous, under these facts.”

But Spencer was somewhat critical of McDonnell’s conduct and those of his supporters. He twice noted efforts to blame Maureen McDonnell, the former first lady of Virginia, who was also charged in the case. At one point, he called those who asserted that she had roped the governor into the case “dangerously delusional.” Later, he said: “While Mrs. McDonnell may have allowed the serpent into the mansion, the governor knowingly let him into his personal and business affairs.”

Spencer said he was saddened by the entire affair. ​

“No one wants to see a former governor of this great commonwealth in this kind of trouble,” he said, but added: “The jury by its verdict found an intent to defraud. That is a serious offense that all the grace and mercy that I can muster, it can’t cover it all.”

  • John Woodrow Cox
  • ·
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell leaves with daughter Cailin Young at the end of the day of his corruption trial Monday at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell leaves court with daughter Cailin Young  during his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Below is an excerpt from The Post’s story on today’s decision. From Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman:

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, 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 advocated for a prison term stretching longer than a decade. McDonnell will likely spend less time behind bars than he spent holding the state’s highest office; he can reduce his sentence by about 15 percent with good behavior.

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.

Keep reading.

  • John Woodrow Cox
  • ·

U.S. District Judge James Spencer said he was moved by the outpouring of letters for McDonnell, 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.”

  • John Woodrow Cox
  • ·
Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is surrounded by media after he left the federal courthouse in Richmond on Monday.  (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown).

(Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has been sentenced to two years in prison by U.S. District Judge James Spencer. He must report to prison by Feb. 9.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Bob McDonnell has addressed the court, asking that Judge James Spencer show him mercy — but that he show it first to his wife, Maureen.

“I stand before you a heartbroken and humbled man,” McDonnell told Spencer.

He noted that he had repeatedly apologized for his interactions with Jonnie Williams.

“I renew that deep expression of sorrow to the people of Virginia today,” he said.

He said the events of the case had caused him to scrutinize every area of his life and to conclude that he had allowed his life as governor to become “out of balance,” with too much focus on politics and governing and not enough on his family.

He said he held himself “accountable for all the words, all the actions I took as governor of Virginia.”

“I’m now 60 years old. All of the additional days that the Lord allows me … I dedicate them to the service of others,” he said.

“I ask that whatever mercy you might have, you grant it first to my wife Maureen,” he said. Her sentencing will come  Feb. 20.

He concluded by asking that he be allowed to perform community service.

  • John Woodrow Cox
  • ·

  • John Woodrow Cox
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  • Matthew Zapotosky
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Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry conceded in court that he was moved by the former governor’s massive amount of support — both in letters and in court testimony. But, he said, in some ways that made McDonnell’s crimes even more unusual.

Dry insisted that McDonnell had the education and the means to do better.

“His crimes were crimes of choice, not necessity,” Dry said. “There’s no denying that he has accomplished many good things in his life, but we expect that from our elected officials, or we should.”

Dry said McDonnell was still blaming others, including his own wife, and despite his public apology, he had not shown any remorse for the actual allegations of which he was convicted. He noted that even the public apology came after McDonnell was under federal investigation and his misdeeds were reported in the press.

“This is a hard thing to say,” Dry said, “but the defendant has shown no true remorse in this case for these crimes.”

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