News Column

Former Virginia governor convicted on 11 corruption counts

September 4, 2014

Washington, Sep 4 (EFE).- A U.S. federal jury on Thursday found former Republican Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell guilty on 11 counts of corruption and his wife Maureen guilty on nine counts for accepting bribes and receiving loans valued at some $177,000.

McDonnell is the first Virginia governor to be convicted of a crime and both he and his wife now face decades in federal prison, although their sentences will not be handed down until Jan. 6, 2015.

The former governor sobbed in court while the jury read the verdict, finally covering his face with his hands, according to people present in the courtroom.

His lawyer, Henry Asbill, said he was "very disappointed" with the verdict and added that his client will appeal.

Prosecutors filed 14 charges against McDonnell and his wife for accepting luxury gifts, clothing, travel and even loans from a rich Richmond businessman named Jonnie Williams in exchange for favors for the latter's companies.

The 12-person jury acquitted the ex-governor of three of the charges, including two for bank fraud - specifically lying in documents regarding bank loans - but it found him guilty on the other 11, including "conspiracy to commit corruption" by accepting gifts and loans from Williams.

Mrs. McDonnell, meanwhile, was found guilty of eight counts of corruption and one of obstruction of justice.

The McDonnells' trial began in July and during its course 67 witnesses testified to elucidate the relationship between the political couple and Williams, the owner of the Star Scientific food products firm.

That company managed to get access to top officials and to the governor's mansion to hold promotional events for food supplements that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In addition, Williams' company even paid the wedding expenses for one of the McDonnells' daughters, according to trial testimony.

During the trial, the former governor insisted that he did not do anything illegal by accepting the gifts and obtaining the loans.

McDonnell, 59, was one of the most popular figures among Republicans before the scandal and it was rumored that he might even be a candidate for president in the 2016 elections.

His trial generated an enormous amount of media attention in the United States, similar to what occurred during the 2012 trial of former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, who eventually was acquitted on several counts related to illegal use of campaign funds. EFE


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Source: EFE Ingles

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