Everyone including probably Bob McDonnell was surprised at the 2 year sentence that McDonnell received for his 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion. Judge James Spencer reduced the sentencing guidelines from a minimum of 10 years to 6 ½ years after argument by both sides. And even with the reduction. McDonnell only received less than 1/3 of the minimum time recommended by the U.S. Department of Probation. All federal cases are subject to sentencing guidelines but a judge may sentence higher or lower than the guidelines. By the remarks of Judge Spencer, it appeared that it hurt him to even sentence McDonnell to those 2 years. And his greatly reduced and much lenient sentence sends a message that for corrupt politicians, crime does pay.
McDonnell never fully expressed remorse instead preferring to place blame on his wife for all of his transgressions. He blamed his wife of 39 years who at times single handily raised five children while Mr. McDonnell pursued his political ambitions at her alleged emotional condition. But Mr. McDonnell’s wife did not send text messages to businessman Jonnie Williams for a second “$20K loan” with little or scant paperwork. Some politicians become involved in making shady and illegal deals out of a simple need for money. The government’s case showed the financial affairs of the McDonnells were in almost shambles during the period in question. Being a public servant is not a job of riches. And that’s no excuse for McDonnell lining his family’s pockets with $177,00 of ill-gotten gains. And if the government had not discovered the Williams-McDonnell affairs, while investigating another matter, McDonnell might have further lined his pockets with Williams’ money and gifts. In other words, he was caught early.
The millions of taxpayer money and juror time to successfully pursue and prosecute the case against McDonnell alone should have warranted a sentence in accordance with the guidelines and prosecutors’ recommendation. Perhaps, Judge Spencer was swayed by the likes of former Governors Doug Wilder, Tim Kaine and other powerful politicians in support of McDonnell. One juror who spoke to NBC 4 Washington felt she had wasted 6 weeks of her time.
I believe in leniency, when warranted. McDonnell’s defense trial tactics of throwing wife McDonnell under the bus, then running over her at the sentencing phase by her two daughters and the failure of McDonnell to take responsibility and show remorse for his own debacle did not in the eyes of this former prosecutor warrant leniency of the type shown by Judge Spencer. I recognize the good deeds that Bob McDonnell did as a governor particularly restoring voting rights to 8,000 felons—a move unprecedented in Republican circles. I only wish leniency and mercy were shown to countless unnamed black and poor defendants who receive 2 years for thefts and drug possession in the criminal justice system. Leniency should not just be reserved for the political and once powerful defendants. Leniency should also be received for those individuals who do not have the rich and powerful to speak on their behalf.
Bob McDonnell, as shown throughout the trial, sought legal advice on some of his dealings with Jonnie Williams. And yet, he continued down the path to his ultimate undoing. Perhaps, he knew all along that all he would get was a slap on the wrist, if caught. And that’s exactly what he received from Judge Spencer- a political slap on the wrist. It remains to be seen how much further leniency is bestowed upon McDonnell. His attorneys plan on asking Judge Spencer to allow the former Governor to remain free during the pendency of his appeal. Now it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Judge Spencer granted that wish.