High Court strikes down ex-Virginia governor’s corruption convictions

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court on Monday threw out the corruption convictions of former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Charged with 14 counts of accepting gifts, trips and loans valued at over $135,000 from the CEO of a dietary supplement firm in 2014, McDonnell was convicted of honest services wire fraud, obtaining property under color of official right, and extortion under color of official right.

Additionally, McDonnell’s wife, was convicted of the same charges and obstruction.

Following his conviction, a court of appeals allowed McDonnell to remain free pending appeal, but affirmed the lower court’s conviction.

Reaching the High Court for oral arguments in April 2016, Chief Justice John Roberts delivered an opinion which expressed skepticism of the bribery statute prosecutors invoked to pursue charges against McDonnell:

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that. But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.  A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this Court.

Responding to the Court’s decision, McDonnell released a statement which read:

“From the outset, I strongly asserted my innocence before God and under the law. I have not, and would not, betray the sacred trust the people of Virginia bestowed upon me during 22 years in elected office.  It is my hope that this matter will soon be over and that my family and I can begin to rebuild our lives.”

Attorneys for McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, expressed optimism the former governor’s exoneration would also lead to the overturning of her convictions.