U.S. District Judge James Spencer on Tuesday sentenced former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to two years in prison for political corruption, the latest chapter in the spectacular fall of one of the Republican Party's former rising stars.
In September, McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts of corruption in a case that exposed how he and his wife, Maureen, conspired to promote a dietary supplement marketed by Jonnie R. Williams, Sr. in exchange for $177,000 in loans, vacations, and other gifts from the Richmond businessman. Maureen McDonnell, who was convicted on eight counts, will be sentenced on February 20.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for a punishment for McDonnell of between 10 years and 12 years and seven months in prison. Given that judges in Spencer's district imposed the recommended sentence more than 70 percent of the time in recent years, McDonnell, 60, entered the week staring down the possibility of more than a decade behind bars. But prosecutors on Tuesday lowered their requested sentence to between 6.5 and eight years in prison, and McDonnell's 24-month sentence falls well short of even that reduced recommendation. Spencer ordered McDonnell to report to prison on February 9.
Elected as Virginia's chief executive in a 2009 landslide, McDonnell was considered a top prospect to serve as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate in 2012. After Romney lost the election to President Obama, many expected the popular governor to mount a 2016 presidential bid, but his political fortunes rapidly declined in 2013 as the investigation into the McDonnells' relationship with Williams commenced. Shortly after McDonnell handed the keys of Virginia's gubernatorial mansion to Terry McAuliffe in January 2014, he and Maureen McDonnell were indicted in the case. The ensuing trial laid bare the rifts in the former first couple's marriage, and McDonnell testified that he and the onetime first lady no longer lived together. On Tuesday, however, Maureen McDonnell made a surprise appearance at her estranged husband's sentencing.