On Tuesday, Former Republican VA Governor Robert (“Bob”) McDonnell faces the toughest day of his life when he is scheduled to be sentenced by Virginia Judge James Spencer on his 11 counts of corruption. His wife, Maureen McDonnell, is scheduled to be sentenced later on February 20. Judge Spencer has already received sentencing recommendations from the prosecutors and McDonnell’s defense team plus over 400 character letters written on behalf of McDonnell.
And just as the case played out in the courtroom, it continues with the same defense theme after the trial. The defense of Bob McDonnell continues to throw wife Maureen McDonnell under the bus as the sole culprit for his demise. Daughters Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin McDonnell Young wrote letters saying in essence that their mother was to blame for everything. And dad, Bob McDonnell, never wished for any lavish items. It was all Mom Maureen’s fault. That defense did not work well with the jury who heard it and convicted him. The defense has requested 6,000 hours of community service spread out over three years, in lieu of any jail time. McDonnell would be lucky to get as little as three years of jail. A better request may have been to ask for greatly reduced jail time. McDonnell’s 11 felony convictions do not warrant probation or special treatment by the court.
The prosecutors are seeking a range of a minimum ten year prison term. The prosecutors are seeking a sentence within the sentencing guidelines prepared by the U.S. Office of Probation. Most judges sentence within the guidelines. Guidelines in McDonnell’s case range from 10 years to a little less than 13 years. The defense asserts the sentencing guidelines are incorrect and should be first corrected. Even if incorrect, McDonnell is still likely going to jail.
A sentence outside of the guidelines range must be explained by the judge. And there were ways that McDonnell’s team could perhaps assist in getting Judge Spencer to deviate from the guidelines. McDonnell spent most of his adult life in political service. And presumably during those years, he did a great deal of good for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Before he left office as VA Governor, he led legislation that restored the right to vote back to over 8,000 convicted felons, rare for a Republican politician to do. In a letter to the judge, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine spoke of those efforts led by McDonnell.
Instead of wife blaming, McDonnell’s team should focus on whatever extraordinary acts or legislation that he assisted in passing to improve life for Virginians. Perhaps, that will be done during his sentencing hearing. Now is the time for McDonnell to take responsibility for his actions. Judges do not like defendants to continually blame others once they have been convicted. While I understand the defense’s position with an appeal looming; there is still a way to come to grips with the reality of the conviction before the court and his role in it.
Now is the time for Bob McDonnell to man up to the reality of his circumstances and stop blaming everything on his wife. While she is in part culpable and has been found guilty on nine counts, it was Mr. McDonnell who directly made calls to businessman Jonnie Williams requesting money and undocumented loans. And no one forced him to accept the gifts lavished on him and his family, including the daughter’s wedding reception. In Virginia and elsewhere, it is illegal for an elected official to require anyone to pay money to receive benefits, known as “pay to play” schemes. That’s how former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (7 years), Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (14 years), former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (10 years), former Prince Georges County, Maryland Executive Jack Johnson (7 years), former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon ( 44 month sentence), to name a few, all received jail sentences of varying lengths.
Regardless of the outcome, the case will be appealed. And if sentenced to jail time, as is most likely expected, McDonnell will likely have to wait in jail pending his appeal. Of course, his attorneys will request that he be released pending the outcome of his appeal. And it will be up to the judge to decide on the issue. Most likely, when sentenced to jail time, McDonnell will be given some time to get his affairs in order and a date to turn himself in to commence any jail sentence.
Tomorrow former Governor Bob McDonnell may become the first VA Governor to receive a jail sentence. He is already the first VA Governor to be charged and convicted. No matter what Tuesday’s outcome, McDonnell is already a disgraced former Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia is not for corrupt politicians. As one juror, Robin Trujillo says, “He broke the trust of the people. He committed a crime.”
Post Script: Debbie Hines will be appearing live on Fox 5 News DC on Tuesday, January 6 @ 7:30 AM to discuss McDonnell’s sentencing.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a practicing trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor who regularly appears on air on Arise TV, Al Jazeera America, BET News, Fox 5 News, Sky News, TV One and others.