Former Virginia governor guilty of corruption

Robert McDonnell and his wife found guilty of corruption for procuring lavish loans and gifts from a businessman in US.

    The McDonnells could now face decades in prison [AP]
    The McDonnells could now face decades in prison [AP]

    A US court has found former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell and his wife guilty of corruption for procuring lavish loans and gifts from a businessman in exchange for political favours.

    The disgraced Republican was convicted on 11 charges, including wire fraud and receiving property based on his official duties.

    The state's former first lady Maureen McDonnell was found guilty on nine of the charges, while they both were found not guilty of falsifying financial statements, the AFP news agency reported.

    Authorities said the couple repeatedly turned to businessman Jonnie Williams Sr, seeking loans, luxury clothes and other gifts, trips and private plane rides that together were worth more than $177,000.

    Federal prosecutors said that in turn, the pair conspired to help Williams' business, a former cigarette-maker that now sells dietary supplements.

    "All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord, and thank you," McDonnell said as he walked out of the courthouse in Richmond, surrounded by family and a throng of media.

    "This is a difficult and disappointing day for the commonwealth and its citizens," Dana Boente, the US Attorney for Virginia's Eastern District, told reporters outside the courthouse.

    "Public service frequently requires sacrifice and almost always requires financial sacrifice."

    Although their defence team could appeal, the McDonnells could now face decades in prison, in a case that has sent shivers through political circles in the nation's capital Washington, which borders Virginia.

    The convictions mark a dramatic fall for the 60-year-old McDonnell, who led the state from January 2010 until January 2014.

    He had been seen as a squeaky-clean rising star, a chairman of the Republican Governors Association who was on a shortlist to become running-mate for 2012 Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

    'Bad judgement'

    McDonnell had apologised for his own "bad judgement" and said he regrets accepting the gifts and loans, but stressed he paid it all back with interest and broke no laws.

    The former governor was sobbing as the jury's verdict was read out, the Washington Post reported. US District Judge James Spencer set sentencing for January 6, 2015.

    According to prosecutors, in 2010 the McDonnells sought the help of Williams, then head of Nasdaq-traded Star Scientific.

    Before the couple's daughter wedding, Williams spent $11,000 at Oscar de la Renta and $5,685 at Louis Vuitton for Mrs McDonnell's shoes and a handbag.

    Her husband received a Rolex engraved with the words "71st governor of Virginia."

    The trial laid bare the couple's alleged marital problems. Defence lawyers had argued that McDonnell could not have conspired with his wife because the two were barely on speaking terms, and that she had a "crush" on Williams.

    Current Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement he was saddened by events of the trial "and the impact it has had on our commonwealth's reputation".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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