Federal prosecutors drop McDonnell corruption case

By WAVY-TV 10 News Staff – 9/8/2016

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Federal prosecutors on Thursday filed two separate, unopposed motions to dismiss indictments in the cases against both Bob and Maureen McDonnell.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June to overturn the bribery conviction of the former Virginia governor.

Both McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in 2014 of corruption, fraud and bribery charges.

It’s been since February 2013 when the McDonnells were first investigated for their relationship with Richmond businessman Jonnie Williams.

Williams showered the McDonnell’s with over $177,000 in gifts, trips and loans in exchange for Williams’ hope that McDonnell would get Williams’ dietary supplement tested in state labs for free. That never happened, but McDonnell was convicted anyway.

McDonnell has said from the start he did nothing wrong, and gave Williams nothing more than what he did for constituents on a regular basis.

The case against Maureen McDonnell was put on hold following the Supreme Court’s June ruling. The hold was to give prosecutors and defense attorneys time analyze the ruling.

A federal appeals court granted a request in August to give attorneys three more weeks to look the case.

Prosecutors moved to dismiss charges against the McDonnell’s with prejudice, meaning they can never again be charged with these offenses.

10 On Your Side spoke with former governor Bob McDonnell, who said, “I am extremely grateful for my family and friends, and most of all my lord and savior Jesus Christ. They all have brought me through this three and a half year ordeal. I am very thankful to the Department of Justice for this decision.”

McDonnell would not say anything further he says until the final court papers are filed in Richmond. He and his legal team did release statements Thursday.

McDonnell’s statement said, in part:

“Throughout this ordeal I have strongly proclaimed my innocence. I would never do, nor consider doing, anything that would violate the trust of the citizens of Virginia I served during 22 years in state elected office. These wrongful convictions were based on a false narrative and incorrect law.”

McDonnell’s sister sat down with 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox Thursday. When she first heard the news, she said, “Bob called me. He was very happy, and he said, ‘it’s over. They dropped the case. It is over. We’re done. We are finished. It is time to move on.’ I didn’t say anything. I started crying. I had immense joy after this three and half year saga.

“It’s been a very trying time for our family,” Maureen continued. “I think we’ve been close, but this has brought us closer. It has strengthened our bonds and the bonds of really good friends. We all have gone through a lot due to Bob’s trial and conviction.”

Maureen says she believes they’ve faced trying times for a reason.

“We also believe there is a greater purpose here, and whether it is our family priests and friends telling us this isn’t big enough, that there is a purpose here. We don’t understand it, but it will be at the highest level to draw attention to it,” Maureen said.

That appears to be true.

The case took Bob McDonnell before the United States Supreme Court to have the highest court in the land declare, “setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event does not, standing alone, qualify as an ‘official act’ leading to corruption under the law.”

Politicians all across the country have been watching this case closely, and now, they are breathing a sigh of relief, too.

There has been pain, and dark nights, and now bright skies and, yes, in this political season, “what ifs.” Andy Fox pointed out to Maureen that had this not happened, McDonnell might very well be the Republican nominee for president. She says there’s been some looking back.

“Sure, Bob and I watched a lot of the debates together throughout this whole political season as Trump was ultimately the candidate. There has been a little bit of ‘what ifs’ as we are watching that,” McDonnell’s sister said.

“I think we can endure anything collectively and individually. Going through this certainly was the greatest challenge of my life, and Bob and all the children, and grandchildren,” Maureen said.

“Three and a half years he’s been through hell. That is huge. Price to pay is huge. What he’s been through. The burden on the family. The financial burden,” longtime friend of Bob McDonnell, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, told WAVY News. “Today Bob is free.”

Randy Singer, counsel for Maureen McDonnell, also released a statement, which said in part:

“Maureen has maintained, from the outset, that neither she nor her husband would ever betray the trust of the people of this Commonwealth. She has waited and prayed for this day for the last three years. In these hardest years of her life she has been sustained by her faith in the Lord, the bonds of her family, and the loyalty of her friends.”

Steve Emmert, a legal analyst and expert of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, says this is what happens next, “It’s a two-step process. This motion is made to the Fourth. That court will issue an order remanding the case to the district court in Richmond. That lower court, in turn, will enter an order dismissing the case with prejudice. At that point, it’ll be formally done. But as of now, the McDonnells can breathe easy. Now all they have to do is pay their legal fees.”