The sentencing hearing started off on a positive note for Bob McDonnell, who faced a potential 11-year term in prison for corruption when he walked in. The judge lowered the range to eight years, but eventually lowered the boom, too — albeit much more gently than prosecutors imagined. “A price must be paid,” the judge intoned as the former governor of Virginia ended up with a two-year prison term, along with two years of probation for the eleven counts in his conviction:

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will serve two years in prison on 11 public corruption counts.

He also received two years probation. The sentence was handed down Tuesday in federal court in Richmond.

Bob McDonnell will report to prison in February.

The judge did take the opportunity to lash out at the prosecutors’ recommendations and the sentencing guidelines:

McDonnell becomes the first Virginia governor to transfer to the penitentiary:

Now, McDonnell has another distinction: He’s the first Virginia governor ever convicted of public corruption.

U.S. District Court Judge James Spencer delivered the sentence in a Richmond courtroom Tuesday morning that was packed with dozens of local and national journalists whose eyes McDonnell had first caught while he battled with legislative Democrats in one of the nation’s most important presidential swing states.

The decision came after 30 minutes of debate between prosecutors and McDonnell’s attorneys over technical issues — including the U.S. probation office’s sentencing guidelines and just how much of a businessman’s largesse actually improperly benefited McDonnell.

His attorneys filed a notice that they would appeal the verdict and the sentence, and asked to keep McDonnell out on bail pending those actions. It sounds as though the judge may be sympathetic enough in the case to allow it, so don’t expect to see a clip of McDonnell surrendering very soon. The sentence could have been much worse, but that doesn’t mean McDonnell and his attorneys won’t go all out to get the convictions overturned.

In fact, McDonnell thanked the judge for his mercy after the hearing, while pledging to fight the convictions: