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Ex-Virginia governor’s wife gets prison for corruption

February 20, 2015

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) — The wife of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced Friday to one year and 1 day in prison for her role in a bribery scheme that destroyed her husband’s political career.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer sentenced Maureen McDonnell on eight public corruption counts.

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell, who had widely been considered a possible Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012, was sentenced to two years in prison last month after being convicted of 11 counts. He is free on bond while he appeals the convictions.

A jury in September found the McDonnells guilty of taking more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s nutritional supplements — primarily the tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory Anatabloc. Among the gifts were about $20,000 in designer accessories and clothing for Maureen McDonnell and a $6,500 Rolex watch she gave her husband for Christmas.

Fighting back tears, McDonnell apologized to her family and Virginians.

“I would ask in your sentence today that you consider the punishment I’ve already received,” she said. “My marriage is broken, my family is hurting and my reputation is in shatters.”

But the judge called the case “puzzling and bizarre,” saying there appeared to be two Maureen McDonnells — the loving mother and devoted wife and the first lady “who belittled and terrorized employees” at the Executive Mansion.

McDonnell said can remain free on bond while she appeals the convictions, the judge said.

Maureen McDonnell’s lawyers said in court papers that she was never comfortable in the role of first lady, and she cracked under the pressure and the fear of letting her husband down.

Supporters testified Friday that Maureen McDonnell is a thoughtful woman devoted to her family, but she was overwhelmed by her role as first lady.

The trial exposed details of the McDonnells’ strained marriage as defense attorneys tried to show that the couple could not have conspired to extract bribes from Williams because they were barely communicating. Several witnesses testified about Maureen McDonnell’s erratic behavior and angry outbursts, which nearly prompted a mass walkout by the Executive Mansion staff. Bob McDonnell testified that he began working later than necessary to avoid his wife’s wrath.

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Associated Press writer Steve Szkotak and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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