Ex-Virginia Governor Gets 2 Years in Prison

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has been sentenced to two years in prison, far less than the six and a half years sought by the prosecutor or the 10 to 12 year range recommended by the United States Probation Office.  McDonnell and his wife Maureen were convicted in September 2014 of accepting $165,000 in undisclosed loans and luxury gifts from a dietary supplement tycoon, Jonnie Williams.  The former first lady is scheduled to be sentenced on February 20.

McDonnell’s sentencing hearing went on for hours, as the defense presented 11 witnesses who testified to the convicted governor’s good deeds and charitable nature.  The defense argued that McDonnell should be required to perform 6,000 hours of community service in lieu of prison.

District Judge James Spencer, who at times appeared hostile toward McDonnell’s defense team during trial, surprised nearly everyone with this lenient sentence.  The judge remained unpersuaded by McDonnell’s defense of blaming his wife for soliciting favors from Williams, remarking that “While Mrs. McDonnell may have allowed the serpent into the mansion, the governor knowingly let him into his personal and business affairs.”  Nevertheless, the judge seemed ultimately moved by the testimony of the defense character witnesses, and before rendering sentence compared himself to the man who condemned Jesus. “Unlike Pontius Pilate, I can’t wash my hands of it all… A meaningful sentence must be imposed.”

That sentence of two years’ imprisonment may be meaningful, but it was light enough for McDonnell to thank the court “for the mercy he displayed to me today.”  Lead prosecutor Michael Dry reportedly left the courtroom with his face twisted in anger and did not comment on the sentence.

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