Maureen McDonnell Sentenced to a Year in Prison

by | February 20, 2015

By Peter Galuszka and Andrew Zajac

Maureen McDonnell, Virginia's former first lady, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison Friday for public corruption in a case that could ultimately reshape federal ethics prosecutions.

Prosecutors had sought a term of 18 months, while McDonnell's lawyers had argued for 4,000 hours of community service, perhaps at a home for poor pregnant women. Her husband, former Governor Robert McDonnell, was given a 6-year prison term last month.

The McDonnells were convicted together of using the prestige of the governor's office to help entrepreneur Jonnie Williams promote a dietary supplement in exchange for loans, private plane flights, golf trips, a shopping spree and other gifts valued at $177,000.

The sentencing is a footnote as the lasting significance of the McDonnells' case may be its effect on how courts define conduct by public officials that rises to the level of fraud. Robert McDonnell has already appealed his conviction arguing the allegations were overly broad.

Maureen McDonnell's lawyers also have filed papers seeking to allow her to stay free pending appeal.

A win for the McDonnells could limit the power of prosecutors to pursue fraud claims against elected officials. If the government prevails, more cases like this could be in the offing.

(c)2015 Bloomberg News