As a former prosecutor, when I read the 43 page, 14 count indictment against Former VA Governor Bob McDonald and his wife, Maureen, the one word that comes to mind is “thug”, a term that has been incorrectly associated this week with Richard Sherman, NFL Seattle Seahawks player. While the media this week has been characterizing Sherman, a Stanford University graduate, as a thug for post-game comments on Sunday, the real thugs of the week are Bob McDonnell and his wife for the alleged activities outlined in that 43 page indictment. Bob McDonnell who is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, audaciously denies the allegations.
If the charges prove true, then McDonnell and his wife will be joining the likes of former Prince Georges County Executive, Jack Johnson and his wife in a federal prison. The charges read like several episodes out of the TV show, Scandal. And it is a scandal. No Virginia governor in modern times has faced criminal charges for corruption, like McDonnell.
The indictment alleges a scheme whereby McDonnell received goods, gifts and services in exchange for government assistance to Johnny Williams’ company, Star Scientific, in promoting its new dietary supplements. According to the papers, McDonnell provided assistance to Williams’ company in official government endorsements, speeches before investors and researchers, research assistance for clinical trials necessary to promote the healing powers of the supplements. And the former Governor along with his wife, did provide the Governor’s mansion to launch the company’s products, proposed using Virginia government employees as guinea pigs for clinical trial, spoke at company events and in other ways gave their support and appearance of the support of the Virginia Governor’s office. McDonnell claims that he was promoting business in Virginia. But McDonnell did directly speak of his financial problems to Williams.
In return for what McDonnell claims was promoting Williams’ business for Virginia, Williams provided the following items to McDonnell such as:
- $50,000 loan, without loan papers, used to pay off some of the McDonnell’s’ credit card debt
- $20,000 additional loan
- $15,000 payment to a caterer for the McDonell’s daughter’s wedding
- Round trip tickets for the McDonnell’s daughters to attend an out of town bachelorette party
- A lavish shopping spree in New York for Mrs. McDonnell to buy couture designer clothing and accessories for the Governor’s inauguration costing thousands
- A Rolex watch, specifically requested by Mrs. McDonnell to be engraved for her husband, after seeing one on Williams’ arm
- Golf outings costing thousands of dollars
- Use of private jets
- Shares of stock
I’m not quite sure who got the better deal but it appears likely that it was the McDonnell’s. If the allegations prove true, then the Governor and his wife thugged their way out of their financial woes by using Williams. And Johnny Williams’ company did receive a boost and a benefit. In other words, it’s called extortion, bribery and a conspiracy to use his official title of Governor to enrich his pockets by promising official government duties on an as need basis for Williams, making false statements, or just thug like behavior, criminally unbefitting of a Governor. In the final analysis, McDonnell and his wife returned many of the items. But a thief cannot return stolen goods to its rightful owner and avoid prosecution. While no case is ever a slam dunk, McDonnell, once the top law enforcement officer for Virginia as Attorney General from 2006-2009, knows Virginia does have an advantage on their side with the ultra-conservative Virginia jurors.
Promoting jobs through business development for the Commonwealth of Virginia is one thing. Requiring an owner of a company to pay for your daughter’s wedding reception or get a free $50,000 loan in exchange to do business is another matter. That’s the part that would demote McDonnell to thug. So if anyone in the news this week should be described as a thug, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife should come in first place.
A link to January 22, 2014 interview on WUSA 9 with Debbie Hines discussing the indictment and charges appears here: http://bcove.me/xrn19ebb
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor who has prosecuted murders, economic crimes, drug cases and sexual assault cases with a high conviction rate. She is often seen in the media on BET, News One with Roland Martin, RT America, CBC-Canada and the Washington DC affiliates Fox 5, WUSA 9, ABC 7 and NBC 4. She also contributes to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.
Edited on January 24, 2014