Former first lady of Virginia Maureen McDonnell was sentenced to a year and one day in prison, inside federal court in Richmond early Friday afternoon. McDonnell, along with her husband, former Gov. Bob McDonnell, was found guilty last September on multiple counts of public corruption after the couple accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and loans from a businessman who sought help from the state government.
The former governor, a onetime Republican rising star thought to be harboring presidential ambitions, in January was sentenced to two years in prison followed by two years of probation for accepting $177,00 in loans, lavish vacations, and jewelry from a businessman seeking political favor. The sentencing was a lower outcome than what the state’s probation office suggested and what the government requested.
Prosecutors asked that Maureen McDonnell get 18 months in federal prison. Her defense team filed a memo asking instead for 4,000 hours of community service and no jail time. A judge in December overturned an obstruction conviction for her, ruling that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the charge against her.
The hearing began at 9 a.m. ET on Friday in the same courtroom where the former governor faced the same federal judge, U.S. District Judge James Spencer, last month. Maureen McDonnell, who hadn’t commented at length since the couple was indicted more than a year ago, took the stand. The 10 remaining character witnesses also addressed the courtroom on her behalf, including her daughter, niece, longtime friends, and former staff members. Her husband, who was granted freedom on bond while he pursues his appeals, attended the sentencing in support of his wife.
The couple was indicted in January 2013 after the former governor turned down an opportunity to plead guilty to a single felony fraud count, sparing his wife of any charges. The couple’s legal team then made a gamble in basing its defense on their rocky marriage. Attorneys shared details about their nearly four-decade relationship and argued it was so troubled that the two couldn’t have colluded with one another to accept more than $165,000 in the form of gifts, trips, and a loan from vitamin salesman Jonnie Williams.
In September, Bob McDonnell was found guilty on 11 counts of public corruption after a trial during which he tried to mount a defense by mentioning his marital problems. His wife was found guilty on eight counts.