Former Virginia Governor Sentenced to Two Years in Prison in Corruption Case After Prosecutors Recommend Ten Years

A federal judge sentenced former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell to 24 months in prison in early January 2015, after a jury convicted him on multiple counts alleging official corruption. United States v. McDonnell, No. 3:14-cr-00012, am. judgment (E.D. Va., Jan. 13, 2015). The defendant was charged in connection with his and his wife’s alleged acceptance of gifts and other items of value from a businessman while he was in office. After the jury rendered a guilty verdict on all but two counts, the federal government recommended a prison sentence of at least 10 years under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (FSG).

Prosecutors charged the defendant and his wife in January 2014 with multiple counts, including honest-services wire fraud, obtaining property under color of official right, and false statements. They alleged that the defendants accepted approximately $177,000 in gifts and loans from a Richmond businessman in exchange for using the governor’s office to help the businessman’s dietary-supplement company. Prior to the indictment, the former governor had reportedly rejected a plea deal for one felony charge of making a false statement on a loan document, which would have carried a maximum of three years in prison, and no charges for his wife. The case went to trial against both defendants in July 2014 and lasted five weeks.

In early September 2014, the jury convicted the defendant of 11 charges: one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1349; three counts of honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1343; one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, 18 U.S.C. § 1951; and six counts of obtaining property under color of official right. It acquitted him on two counts of false statements, 18 U.S.C. § 1014. The defendant’s wife was convicted on eight counts.

The U.S. Probation Office made its sentencing recommendation in a presentence report (PSR) in December 2014, and prosecutors agreed with the PSR’s assessment. The sentencing process in federal court involves several steps. The court must determine the range of sentences under the FSG and must determine if any sentencing enhancements apply. The court must then determine whether or not a sentence within the FSG serves the factors outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

The PSR recommended three sentencing enhancements:
– A two-level enhancement for an offense involving more than one bribe, U.S.S.G. § 2C1.1(b)(1) (2014);
– A ten-level enhancement for bribes or official actions totaling more than $120,000, U.S.S.G. §§ 2C1.1(b)(2), 2B1.1(b)(1)(F); and – A two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice by making false statements under oath, U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1.

The government claimed that the PSR served the factors outlined in 18 U.S.C. §§ 3553(a)(1), (a)(2)(A), and (a)(2)(B). It recommended a sentence of 121 to 151 months’ imprisonment. Federal judges are not obligated to follow PSRs, and on January 6, 2015, the court sentenced the defendant to two years in prison. It also allowed his release from custody while an appeal is pending.

These blog posts are meant to be illustrative only. Unless expressly stated to the contrary herein, these matters are not the result of any legal work of Michael J. Brown, but are used to communicate a particular point of view. Michael J. Brown does not claim credit for any legal work done by any lawyer or law firm either generally or specifically, with respect to the matters contained in this blog.

If you have been arrested for an alleged offense, a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights and protect your interests. Michael J. Brown has represented clients in west Texas criminal cases for over 20 years. Contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157 to schedule a confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced advocate.

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Judge Increases Defendants’ Sentences in Drug Case Based on Acquitted Conduct, Supreme Court Rejects Their Appeal, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, December 4, 2014
Fifth Circuit Rules on Evidence Requirements in Counterfeit Money Case, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, November 19, 2014

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