Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pauses while making a statement as his wife, Maureen, right, listens during a news conference in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. McDonnell and his wife were indicted Tuesday on corruption charges after a monthslong federal investigation into gifts the Republican received from a political donor.
Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, along with his wife Maureen, has been charged in federal court for accepting gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
The 14-count indictment against McDonnell and his wife, Maureen,
includes one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud;
three counts of honest-services wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to
obtain property under color of official right; six counts of obtaining
property under color of official right; and one count of making false
statements to a federal credit union.
"Today's charges represent the Justice Department's continued
commitment to rooting out public corruption at all levels of
government,'' Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman said in a news
release. "Ensuring that elected officials uphold the public's trust is
one of our most critical responsibilities.''
Bob McDonnell is also charged with an additional count of making a false
statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell is charged
with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
McDonnell confirmed the charges himself in a statement obtained by NBC4 on Tuesday:
"My fellow Virginians, earlier today federal prosecutors notified my
attorneys that they have filed criminal charges against me and my wife
Maureen, alleging that we violated federal law by accepting gifts and
loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific. I deeply
regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which
have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor
judgment for which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat
emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for
what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship. I never
promised – and Mr. Williams and his company never received – any
government benefit of any kind from me or my Administration. We did not
violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I
have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to
prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government."
McDonnell returned the gifts, including a $15,000 catering tab for the wedding of one of McDonnell's daughters,
in August of last year. He maintains that Star Scientific received no
special treatment in exchange for the gifts. He insisted that he had
done nothing illegal on behalf of Star Scientific but said he'd do
"things differently today than choices I made a couple of years ago.''
University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondick says this kind of indictment is unprecedented in Virginia — McDonnell is the first governor to face criminal charges.
"Something like this, I think, is maybe a little more surprising than it would be in other states that had more of a tradition of this sort of thing," Kondik says.
The scandal unfolded around the same time as a separate politically
embarrassing case involving a former executive mansion chef who was
accused of embezzlement and, in turn, accused McDonnell's children of
taking mansion food and supplies for personal use. The governor later
reimbursed the state.
The fallout seeped into the general
election, with McDonnell playing a low-key role in support of Republican
Ken Cuccinelli, who lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Asked why he
hadn't been more visible, McDonnell replied, "That's a question for the
Cuccinelli himself received more than $18,000 in gifts from Williams as well, and subsequently donated an equivalent amount to charity earlier last year. Cucinnelli does not face charges.
In part as a respond to the gift giving scandal, Virginia lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made ethics reform a priority in this year's legislative agenda. Legislators in Richmond are considering a $250 cap on gifts, a new
ethics commission and requiring relatives of elected officials to report gifts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Robert and Maureen McDonnell Indictment by competitionroolz