RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell should perform community service rather than serve prison time for his federal corruption convictions, an international relief organization said Tuesday.
Operation Blessing International said it offered McDonnell jobs heading its hunger relief program in Appalachia or working at its orphanage and fish farm in Haiti if U.S. District Judge James Spencer agrees to spare McDonnell prison time.
“As with his volunteering during Hurricane Katrina, Bob has shown an authentic willingness to serve others no matter how difficult the task,” group president Bill Horan said in a statement. “We believe that we can leverage his energy and expertise to better serve those in need.”
Operation Blessing spokesman Chris Roslan said the organization collaborated with defense attorneys ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for lawyers to file sentencing recommendations. Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing was founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. McDonnell is a graduate of Robertson’s Regent University law school.
McDonnell’s lawyers and the U.S. attorney’s office did not immediately respond to telephone messages.
McDonnell, a Republican who was once on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, will be sentenced Jan. 6. He faces up to decades in prison after being convicted of 11 counts, although federal sentencing guidelines likely will call for much less.
The former governor and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from the CEO of a dietary supplements company in exchange for promoting his products. Maureen McDonnell will be sentenced Feb. 20 on eight counts.
Sentencing guidelines are calculated by the U.S. Probation Office based on a number of factors, including the defendant’s background and the seriousness of the offenses. Attorneys can challenge the guidelines and argue for a sentence lower or higher than the recommended range. Judges usually issue a sentence within the range, but are not bound it.
Spencer earlier this month granted McDonnell’s request to expand his sentencing brief to 50 pages, which is more than the usual 30 pages, in part because he expects prosecutors to ask for a stiff sentence.
In his statement, Horan said the manager of Operation Blessing’s regional food distribution center in Bristol, Virginia, has had to step down for medical reasons.
“We believe appointing Bob in this role will have an immediate and positive impact on our ability to serve the poor in Appalachia,” he said. “Accordingly, we asked the court’s blessing for Bob to volunteer with Operation Blessing to help feed the poorest people of the region rather than for him to spend his time sitting in prison.”
The position in Haiti is another option, Roslan said, adding that McDonnell would cover his own living expenses.
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