Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has been found guilty of 11 charges of corruption after what some have called the biggest trial in Virginia’s political history came to a close on Thursday.
In addition to the 11 corruption charges, McDonnell also faced one count of lying on financial documents. McDonnell and his wife accepted over $165,000 in gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for political favors. Williams was the founder and chief executive of Star Scientific, a dietary supplement maker.
The jury deliberated for nearly 18 hours over the course of three days after hearing five weeks of testimony from 67 different witnesses. McDonnell himself spent 24 hours on the witness stand testifying about his relationship with Williams, during which he remained adamant that while he did accept the gifts, he did not know what Williams wanted in return.
Williams testified that he specifically spent the money on the McDonnell family with the intention of securing state-backed studies for the anti-inflammatory supplement Anatabloc, which he sought to convince doctors and medical organizations to support the drug.
The McDonnell’s defense centered on the supposed weakness of their marriage, which they hoped would convince the jury that they could not have been collaborating in their dealings with Williams.
McDonnell came in to office with $75,000 of credit card debt, which ballooned to nearly $100,000 within months. “Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt,” his wife emailed a member of her husband’s staff shortly before his inauguration. “We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!!”
Shortly thereafter she accompanied Williams on a lavish shopping spree in New York, where he bought her nearly $20,000 of designer dresses. He also spent $15,000 on catering for the McDonell’s daughter’s wedding, and bought golf trips, private flights, and a $6,500 Rolex for McDonnell himself.
In one of many farcical moments during the trial, McDonnell’s son Bobby testified that “I thought it was a knock off because the second hand ticked. I had always heard that the second hand on Rolexes roll.”
McDonnell, once thought to be a likely presidential candidate for the GOP, was governor of Virginia from 2010 to 2014, during which time he signed into law Virginia’s largest-ever tax hike and used taxpayer funds for such government necessities as energy drinks and breath strips.
“While other governors and spouses may have had bacon and eggs, or cereal, or etc for breakfast, Governor McDonnell drinks Boost every morning, and the First Lady has a 5-Hour energy and/or a Boost,” said their chief of staff at the time. “That is their breakfast. And that is why those items are covered, just like breakfast is covered for EVERY Governor and First Lady.”
McDonnell will be sentenced on January 6. He and his wife, who was also found guilty on charges of corruption and obstruction of justice, could spend decades in federal prison.