Feds drop case against former Governor Bob McDonnell

The case against former Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife has been dropped by the Department of Justice. The Washington Post reports:

Federal prosecutors will not attempt to retry former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, on corruption charges, ending a years-long saga that rocked the commonwealth’s political class and cut short the rise of a Republican Party star.

The conclusion came unceremoniously, as prosecutors filed one-paragraph documents telling a federal appeals court they would move to dismiss the indictments. It means that the McDonnells — who have always maintained they did nothing illegal — will avoid criminal convictions and prison time.

But the images produced at their trial — the troubled marriage, the lavish vacations, a Ferrari ride, the Rolex watch — can hardly be undone. And the case left in its wake a new legal definition of what constitutes public corruption, based on the Supreme Court’s ruling tossing the former governor’s convictions.

The Associated Press explains the Supreme Court decision that overturned McDonnell’s conviction:

At issue in McDonnell’s case was a federal bribery law that makes it illegal for a public official to agree to take “official action” in exchange for money, gifts and other things of value.

In vacating McDonnell’s conviction, the Supreme Court ruled that setting up a meeting or organizing an event — without doing more — isn’t considered an “official act.”

While McDonnell’s actions may have been “distasteful,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the high court’s concern “is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes and ball gowns,” but with “the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.”

The prosecutor could have retried McDonnell and his wife but the higher standard set by the Supreme Court made a retrial victory less likely. Even current Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe said of the case, “It is time to move on.”

McDonnell gave a statement on the decision to this local Virginia news station:

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on May 27, 2023