Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison following his conviction in September on 11 counts of corruption.
McDonnell thanked the judge for showing “mercy.”
“I want to thank the court and Judge Spencer for the mercy he dispensed to me today,” McDonnell said shortly after the sentencing. “I am a fallen human being. I have made mistakes in my life. … But I have never, ever betrayed my sacred oath of office in any way while I served this great commonwealth.”
He will have to report to prison by Feb. 9.
Spencer, who presided over a six-week trial in late summer, earlier determined that federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of 78 to 97 months — 6½ to a little more than 8 years — saying an obstruction-of-justice enhancement shouldn’t count if McDonnell gave testimony that the jury did not believe. The judge listened to almost four hours of testimony asking for leniency for McDonnell.
“It breaks my heart, but I have a duty I can’t avoid,” Spencer said in handing down the prison term. Spencer did not have to adhere to federal guidelines in determining McDonnell’s sentence, but federal judges use them most of the time.
Outside of court, McDonnell said he would appeal immediately.
On Monday, the day before the sentencing, McDonnell’s lawyers filed a motion asking Spencer to allow the former governor to remain out of prison on bond pending the outcome of his appeal. Instead, Spencer told McDonnell the date he should report to prison, but the judge can reconsider or the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can decide to delay McDonnell’s incarceration.
“Any time an elected official is sent to prison, it sends a message,” said the FBI’s lead agent in the investigation, Adam Lee. “There’s no victory lap. There’s no celebration.”
McDonnell is the first Virginia governor, and the 12th nationally, convicted of corruption, federal officials said.
During the trial, McDonnell’s defense sought to shift blame to his wife Maureen for the gifts and thinly disguised bribes for which he was convicted. Apparently, this was partly true, but there was enough documentation to prove McDonnell had his own schemes to enrich himself.
One juror thought the sentence inappropriate:
“Good people can do bad things,” Robin Trujillo said. “We talked, we went through documents about the testimony and looked at all the evidence.
“It was just overwhelming. It was also just staring us in the face,” Trujillo said.
She has been disturbed by all the letters seeking leniency.
“It was not just some small little thing. It was major, and it went on for a very long time,” Trujillo said. “It’s never been about how nice you are. It’s what you did, what you allowed to happen.”
McDonnell threw away a promising career because of his greed and avarice. He may not deserve the lenient sentence, but the orchestrated effort to have the judge go easy on him worked to perfection.
In that sense, the former governor succeeded in his last campaign.