Fourth Circuit Upholds McDonnell Conviction

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – The Fourth Circuit on Friday upheld former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction on 11 federal corruption and fraud charges.
     McDonnell was convicted after a five-week jury trial in September 2014 on charges he facilitated meetings between state government officials and the CEO of a health supplement company in exchange for extravagant gifts.
     The Virginia Republican appealed the decision, arguing that his actions on behalf of Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams did not constitute quid pro quo corruption, but were instead gifts exchanged for official acts.
     But U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker, writing for the three-judge panel said they found no reason to “undo what has been done” and affirmed McDonnell’s conviction.
     “Appellant received a fair trial and was duly convicted by a jury of his fellow Virginians,” Thacker wrote. “In sum, Appellant has thereby failed to sustain his heavy burden of showing that the Government’s evidence was inadequate.”
     U.S. Circuit Judges Diana Gibbon Motz and Robert Bruce King joined Thacker in the unanimous decision.
     McDonnell raised a number of issues that simply didn’t gain any traction with the appellate panel. Among these were that his trial should have been severed from that of his estranged wife because her testimony could have absolved him of some of the charges. He also argued that prosecutors abused their discretion when surveyed a group of prospective jurors about whether media attention had swayed their opinion of the case.
     He also claimed he was unfairly denied the right to have former Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter White testify on his behalf as an expert witness.
     “We have held that merely asking for a show of hands was not an abuse of discretion,” Thacker wrote on the jury selection process.
     As for his complaint about being denied White’s testimony, Thacker said, “Expert testimony cannot be used for the sole purpose of undermining a witness’s credibility.”
     McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison. Maureen McDonnell, who was also found guilty of federal corruption charges and was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, still awaits the outcome of her appeal.
     After the ruling was announced, McDonnell’s legal team declared that the “fight for justice for our client is far from over,” vowing an appeal.
     As for McDonnell himself, in a written statement he said he was “greatly disappointed” by the Fourth Circuit’s decision.
     “During my nearly 40 years of public service, I have never violated my oath nor disregarded the law. I remain highly confident in the justice system and the grace of our God that full vindication will come in time,” he said.

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