Sep 05

Justice Department’s Integrity Section Scores a Win in McDonnell Case: Gov. McDonnell Should Have Accepted the Plea Deal Because the Broken Marriage Defense Didn’t Work

More than two years after the Justice Department Public Integrity Section’s embarrassing fumble in the campaign finance trial that didn’t result in a conviction against former U.S. Senator John Edwards, the section successfully prosecuted former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (a onetime Republican rising star who was considered for the 2012 vice-presidential nomination) and wife Maureen McDonnell. The Edwards trial was one of many missteps that led to a wave of bad publicity for the DOJ Section. But yesterday, a jury found former governor Bob McDonnell guilty of 11 corruption-related counts, and his wife of 8 corruption-related counts and one count of an obstruction of justice in a case that arose from accepting gifts from a wealthy businessman. He was acquitted of lying on loan documents, and she was acquitted of falsifying a bank record.

We’ve previously blogged about the trial here. At trial, lawyers for the McDonnells argued that their marriage was too broken for them to conspire. This simply wasn’t enough for the jury. The prosecutors vigorously attacked this defense (at one point showing pictures of the McDonnells arriving at court holding hands earlier this year to the jury) and paraded the evidence of all the lavish presents received by the couple.

Now that we have all become familiar with the dysfunctional marital dynamics of the couple, and both face years in jail, I’m sure the former governor is ruing his decision to reject what now seems like an incredibly good deal: plead guilty to one felony fraud charge that had nothing to do with corruption in office and his wife would not be charged at all. However, the cliché that hindsight is 20/20 is usually appropriate with decisions to reject plea deals and go to trial. Because sometimes, even when it seems as though all evidence points to guilty, a jury will not convict. 

2 Responses

  1. Mell, Elizabeth says:

    I love it. I also hate the term “broken marriage” so I smugly enjoy such stories.

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