RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Federal prosecutors urged a judge to reject former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plea for leniency, arguing that the three years of community service his lawyers have recommended would amount to no punishment at all for his public corruption convictions.
In court papers filed late Tuesday, the government said McDonnell remains unrepentant and “will not relent in shifting blame for his own actions to others” — including his wife and co-defendant, Maureen — and that he deserves at least 10 years in prison for selling the influence of his office to a wealthy vitamin entrepreneur.
McDonnell’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued in briefs that the sentence sought by prosecutors is overly harsh for a defendant who devoted his life to “honorable public service” but made errors in judgment that destroyed his once-promising career and left his personal life in shambles.
The latest court filings came in response to sentencing recommendations made by both sides last week. The former governor, once widely considered a possible Mitt Romney running mate, will be sentenced on 11 counts Tuesday. His wife faces sentencing on eight counts Feb. 20.
After a six-week trial, a jury in September convicted the McDonnells of doing favors for former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in low-interest loans and gifts, including designer clothing, expensive vacations and a Rolex watch. The favors included a product launch event at the Executive Mansion and meetings with administration officials as Williams sought state-backed research for his company’s tobacco-based anti-inflammatory, Anatabloc.
Prosecutors said in their brief that McDonnell is asking the court to send the message that corrupting a gubernatorial office “deserves no imprisonment at all” and that he persists in minimizing his offense by describing bribes as gifts that were permitted by state law.
They also said he has failed to take responsibility for his actions, blaming his wife and even his children, who also received gifts from Williams. Much of the defense case focused on the actions of Maureen McDonnell, who solicited many of the gifts and developed a cozy relationship with Williams, and on the strained nature of the McDonnells’ marriage.
“In assessing the defendant’s character, the Court can, and should, take into account his trial strategy of attempting to place blame on everyone but himself,” prosecutors wrote. “He admitted what he had to, denied what he could, and blamed everyone else whenever able.”
McDonnell’s attorney’s denied the blame-shifting allegation, saying McDonnell publicly apologized before being indicted and that he testified at trial: “I hold myself accountable for the reasons that we’re here.” His testimony about actions of family members did not amount to blaming them, the attorneys said.
They also argued that the testimony about the McDonnells’ marital troubles was necessary because the government indicted both and alleged a conspiracy.
“In the face of that allegation, the nature and quality of the communication in the marriage was clearly relevant, and Mr. McDonnell reluctantly allowed his attorneys to ask him questions about that deeply sensitive, painful, and embarrassing topic,” defense lawyers wrote.
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