January 21st, 2014
03:47 PM ET
8 months ago

Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell indicted in gift scandal

Updated 7:17 p.m. ET, 1/21/2014

(CNN) – Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party who was considered potential presidential material, was indicted along with his wife on Tuesday on federal charges of accepting illegal gifts.

The 14-count indictment, culminating a lengthy investigation of their relationship with a Virginia business executive, alleges fraud by a public official, false statements, and obstruction.

Read the indictment

Gifts valued at a minimum of $140,000 in total included designer clothes, a Rolex watch, golf clubs, iPhones and a painting, according to a list of items included in the indictment.

Read the list of gifts

McDonnell, who in a statement denied any illegal conduct and called the charges federal government overreach, was elected in 2009 and left office earlier this month after serving one term. Virginia governors cannot serve consecutive terms.

"I come before you this evening as someone who has been falsely and wrongfully accused and whose public service has been wrongfully attacked," he said in a televised statement.

The federal probe involved the relationship between the governor and his wife, Maureen, with Jonnie Williams, the chief executive of a troubled nutritional supplement company, Star Scientific.

Authorities allege that Williams gave gifts and loans to the first family of Virginia, and that they promoted his company.

McDonnell admitted to poor judgment in an earlier written statement.

"I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility," he said.

"However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship," he added.

McDonnell's Democratic successor, Terry McAuliffe, issued his own statement after the charges were filed.

"As this case progresses, it is my sincerest hope that justice will be served and that Virginians get the answers to which they are entitled," he said. "As Governor, I will remain focused on leading this Commonwealth in a way that restores Virginians' trust in government and honors their expectation of transparency and accountability."

Within hours of the indictment, McDonnell's legal team launched a forceful attack on the government's case.

The lawyers made two legal filings in federal court in Richmond, one of which invoked an ancient ruler whose tyrannical reign was reputedly marked by financial greed and misdeeds.

"It has been a long time since the Roman Emperor Caligula imprisoned people for violating laws written in tiny lettering on a pillar too high to see," the lawyers wrote in making a comparison to the federal government's case against McDonnell.

McDonnell's lawyers argued his innocence and said the charges were built on a "rickety legal foundation."

"To bring today's indictment, the federal government has concocted a never-before-used legal theory manufactured for the sole purpose of prosecuting Governor McDonnell and his wife," McDonnell's lawyers wrote.

"This new theory contravenes settled judicial precedent and disregards longstanding Virginia law and practice, seeking to punish the McDonnells for conduct that was legal before today," the lawyers said.

The McDonnell legal filings said Williams is under federal investigation for some of the health claims his company made for its products. But the government has offered "blanket immunity" in exchange for cooperation in the McDonnell investigation.

Appearing on CNN's "Crossfire," former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said the indictment was not a surprise considering the public attention the investigation received. He believes the charges will "cause challenges" for Virginia.

"We like to think of ourselves as a pretty smooth-running, clean state. Doesn't mean everything goes the way we want it to all the time - this puts a dent in that and that's not something we're happy to see with the history we've got, which has been pretty darn good," he said.

Cuccinelli, a Republican who served under McConnell, lost the governor's election in November to McAuliffe.


Filed under: Bob McDonnell • Virginia
soundoff (187 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    Saw this coming from a mile away. So did Bob, which is why he lawyered up when he did. Maybe he and Christie can share a cell haha

    January 21, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    Not a good week for republican governors. Now if they would focus on Rick Scott.

    January 21, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. bcrunner

    We've been waiting for this to happen for some time now. Governor ultra sound is finally going down. Unbelievable the unethical things he and his wife did..

    January 21, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Kiss any White House dreams goodbye Bob. Good riddance. Maybe you can get Cuccinelli to represent you.

    January 21, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. fragglerock

    And the thunder rolls...

    January 21, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. current state of the union

    Save a spot for Christie .

    January 21, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. Frank Booth

    What a couple of lowlifes, I hope that corrupt Blagojevich-like political hack goes straight to the jail house! You remember when folks were getting excited about this clown running for Pres? Frank

    January 21, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    Now, watch carefully at how differently the GOP/Teatrolls and MSM treat this than they treated Blago's corruption scandal, even though it's pretty much the same crap.

    January 21, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  9. KidKid

    What will be his punishment? Pay a fine and back to the office to complete the corruption process...I promise I wont lie again.

    January 21, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    --no wonder Virginia went for DEMOCRAT GOVERNOR. GOP is gone to dogs. These animals do not know as to what they are doing to the nation–because these guys are in RUT for money, power. Pathetic.

    January 21, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. The REAL Truth...

    Sheesh.. no doubt he rwnj's think this is another Krispy witch hunt..

    January 21, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. obotma

    when are the american people going to come up with a new system of government that does not include politicians!!!

    January 21, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. Janalionberger

    Keep bringing all these corrupt Republicans forward, looks like the race for president is getting smaller and smaller all the time.

    January 21, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Phil T. Listener

    It's about time. That big guy from NJ may be next.

    January 21, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Steve_Denver

    Let's hear it, haters. Just like NJ, a republiCON bilks the taxpayer, commits crimes in office, it must be Obama's fault.

    January 21, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  16. current state of the union

    Just another smear campaign huh saying? When are you going to get it, your party has an inherent problem with the rules. That's OK, their more than willing to change them first chance they get.

    January 21, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. ksiner

    Goodbye 2016 Bobby

    January 21, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. Amy

    Typical republican politician

    January 21, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Buddha

    Who could have guessed, a politician doing something illegal.

    January 21, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. Grady

    One term wonder...able to clean up and leave office with some of his il-gotten gains...

    January 21, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. marcia

    So not surprised. But liberals are always wanting a free ride I thought???? Great Job McDonnell and Governor Christie!

    January 21, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. John316

    The chickens come home to roost for the GOP .......and they have a lot of chickens.....

    January 21, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Probably from Chris Christie

    January 21, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. current state of the union

    The cooch was pretty cozy with this guy too, a pattern saying? Maybe, just maybe people will look before they leap next time, the evidence was there, if you cared to see it.

    January 21, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. behaviorquest

    Why do these Republican right wing conservatives so often look like some tele-evangelist right out of central casting?

    January 21, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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