POLITICS

Maureen McDonnell, Virginia Ex-First Lady, To Be Sentenced For Corruption

02/20/2015 06:00 am ET | Updated Apr 22, 2015
Alex Wong via Getty Images

RICHMOND, Va., Feb 20 (Reuters) - Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell faces sentencing on Friday for taking bribes from a businessman, with federal prosecutors seeking 18 months in prison and defense lawyers asking for a community service sentence.

McDonnell was convicted in September along with her estranged husband, former Governor Robert McDonnell, for accepting $177,000 in sweetheart loans and lavish gifts from entrepreneur Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's main product, an anti-inflammatory.

The five-week trial in U.S. District Court laid bare rifts in the couple's marriage and tarnished Virginia's reputation for clean government.

In court documents, prosecutors said Maureen McDonnell was unlikely ever again to have influence over an elected official but that an 18-month prison term would serve as a deterrent.

"Any sentence imposed on her will affect others who may be in positions to affect those in a position of public trust," they said.

Attorneys for the former first lady argued she had suffered enough during the trial, during which witnesses described her as unstable and driven by greed.

They have asked U.S. District Judge James Spencer to sentence her to 4,000 hours of community service. If a prison term is imposed, they are seeking a total sentence of nine months split between jail and home confinement, according to court filings.

Maureen McDonnell was convicted of nine counts of corruption, but Spencer dismissed the obstruction of justice charge in December.

Robert McDonnell, a Republican, was convicted on 11 counts and sentenced to two years in prison last month, far below the 10- to 12-year term prosecutors had sought. He is free pending an appeal.

The gifts to the couple from Williams, the chief executive of Star Scientific Inc, included a $6,500 Rolex watch, wedding and engagement presents and golf outings and equipment.

He provided a $50,000 loan and a $15,000 "gift" to cover wedding expenses for McDonnell's daughter. He also gave a $70,000 loan to a corporation that the governor and his sister used to manage beach properties.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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