Virginia's Governor Unlikely to be Re-Tried on Corruption Charges
Virginia's Governor Escapes Another Trial After Supreme Court Victory
Prosecutors are unlikely to seek a new trial for former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell on corruption charges when they file a response next month to the Supreme Court decision in the case, according to legal experts.
McDonnell was convicted in 2014 of using the influence of his office for personal gifts and loans from a business executive but the Supreme Court overturned the conviction last month.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Virginia’s law defining bribery of a public official was misinterpreted in McDonnell’s trial and remanded the case to the appeals court to reconsider the conviction.
Attorneys who handle public integrity cases say prosecutors know they stand little chance of winning another conviction after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Their only chance for salvaging their prosecution is by discovering new evidence implicating McDonnell in a criminal act.
However, the facts in the case are unlikely to change after a thorough investigation and lengthy prosecution, according to attorneys who monitored the case. As a result, prosecutors know their small chances of success mean their best course of action would be to drop the case and allow McDonnell to remain free.
The Supreme Court said the judge and prosecution gave the jury too broad of a definition of an official act that could represent abuse of authority by a politician.
McDonnell says he did nothing official for Jonnie R. Williams, who was given access to the governor’s executive mansion for receptions involving his vitamin supplement business.
McDonnell said he was merely trying to assist a member of Virginia’s business community in his role as governor.
However, Williams also helped to arrange gifts and loans for McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, which led to allegations the governor was using his office for personal gain.
Maureen McDonnell was convicted of conspiring with her husband in corrupt acts. She is appealing.
With agreement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, prosecutors asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to suspend a possible re-trial against the governor for 30 days. They said they needed more time to analyze the Supreme Court decision to determine their next steps.