RICHMOND, Va.— A federal trial mired in soap-opera details of a broken marriage inside the governor's mansion ended in the harsh light of a jury convicting former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, on multiple public corruption charges Thursday.
Jurors rejected a defense built on assertions the couple was barely speaking when Bob McDonnell was in office and that they could not possibly have conspired to trade access to their power for $165,000 in loans and luxury gifts.
The largess was courtesy of a businessman, the prosecution's star witness, who was seeking to win backing from the powerful couple for one of his company's nutritional supplements.
The former governor was found guilty on 11 of 13 federal charges, his wife on nine of 13. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6.
The jury deliberated about 18 hours over three days without a single question, despite the complicated nature of the evidence and indictment. After the verdicts were read and family members wept in the courtroom, the McDonnells left separately.
The ex-governor, a onetime political star who soared to hold the same office as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry and was touted in Republican circles as a possible running mate for 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, walked into a witness waiting room. Maureen McDonnell came out later, hugging one of her daughters while weeping loudly, and went into a separate waiting room.
Federal prosecutor Dana Boente told reporters outside the courthouse in Richmond that this was a 'sad day for the Commonwealth" with a former governor guilty of corruption. "When public officials turn to financial gain for official acts we have no choice but to prosecute," Boente said.
Among the charges detailed in the 14-count public corruption indictment were wire fraud, conspiracy and obtaining property under color of their official offices.
Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the government's public corruption investigation. The former governor also was charged with making a false statement to a financial institution during a mortgage loan refinancing application, when he neglected to include liabilities he owed to businessman and campaign donor Jonnie Williams.
The jury acquitted the McDonnells on false-statement charges related to financial institutions.
In his closing argument, prosecutor David Harbach charged that the McDonnells had a "corrupt understanding" and were badly in personal debt. As a result, he said they were willing to undertake official acts to help the former Star Scientific Inc. CEO promote his tobacco-based supplement, Anatabloc, in exchange for the gifts and loans.
"That is bribery. That is corruption , the real thing," Harbach said.
Henry Asbill, Robert McDonnell's attorney, said the prosecution's case had gaping holes. The biggest: "Jonnie didn't get anything. Nothing. This case is all 'quid,' no 'quo.' "
The month-long trial had an almost soap opera feel to it, as defense attorneys offered intimate details of the couple's frayed relationship in their effort create sympathy for the former Virginia first lady and make the case that there was so little communication between the two that they couldn't have conspired to trade the power of the governor's office for their own personal gain.
Williams received immunity to testify against the McDonnells. He said he showered the couple with gifts, trips and arranged loans for the powerful couple because he wanted the governor's office to promote his company's tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement.
In their unusual defense, the McDonnells—who had separate legal defense teams—tried to portray their marriage as so broken that they could not have conspired to take bribes as federal prosecutors charged.
The jury was presented with a 2011 letter from McDonnell to the first lady in which he professed his love for her but also lamented that he had become "Spiritually and mentally exhausted from being yelled at" by her.
During his testimony, the former governor described the difficulties in his marriage with Maureen McDonnell. He said he got in the habit of working late to avoid going home and dealing with his wife's rage. He moved out of the family home and into the rectory of a Catholic church for the duration of the trial for much the same reason. And he claimed to be "hurt" to learn that Williams and his wife exchanged 950 phone calls and text messages, though he said he did not believe their relationship was sexual.
Defense lawyers cast the former first lady as out of her depth in the executive mansion and contended she had become infatuated with Williams, a notion that was reinforced by the governor and his defense team.
Jeanine McDonnell Zubosky, the couple's oldest child, testified in her mother's defense and told the jury that her parents fought about family finances long before her father won public office. Zubowsky and friends of the former first lady also portrayed her as gullible. They also suggested her loneliness contributed to her being attracted and duped by Williams.
"I think she had a mild obsession with Jonnie," Zubowsky said.
The government focused on an almost two-year period from April 2011 to March 2013 as the foundation for its corruption charges.
Maureen McDonnell first contacted Williams to arrange for a New York City shopping trip, a "rain check" for an offer in December 2009 when he said he would buy her a designer dress for her husband's inauguration but was rebuffed by the governor-elect and his staff.
In addition to springing for the $20,000 shopping spree for McDonnell, prosecutors said Williams wrote a $15,000 check to daughter Cailin McDonnell Young to pay for her wedding reception, gave a $50,000 loan to Maureen McDonnell, hosted the McDonnells at his multimillion-dollar vacation home, and paid for more than $5,000 worth of golf games and equipment from Kinloch Golf Club.
"The single, simple question of this case is why did he give them, why did they take them?" prosecutor Harbach said. Jonnie Williams knew what he wanted, Harbach added, and "the defendants knew what Jonnie Williams wanted."
McDonnell last year repaid more than $120,000 to Williams, with interest, and apologized for bringing "embarrassment" to the state. But the former governor was steadfast in his insistence that he did not break the law and maintained that he saw Williams as a friend.
But prosecutors presented documents to jurors that showed the then-governor repeatedly misspelled Williams' first name in notes he made about Star Scientific, loans and actions he needed to follow up on with other state officials.
They also attempted to undercut the defense team's broken marriage strategy by noting that the McDonnells spent the vast majority of nights together during the 22-month period of the criminal conspiracy.
Under cross examination, lead prosecutor Michael Dry argued that McDonnell's actions were in direct response to gifts from Williams. At the time, McDonnell had large credit-card debt and was grappling with expenses for two beach homes he bought through a company he owned jointly with his sister.
"How many other companies you promoted or posed with a product loaned you $50,000, $20,000?" lead prosecutor Michael Dry asked. "Given your wife $50,000?"
"None," acknowledged McDonnell.
Contributing: Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY. Ochsner also reports for WVEC-TV, Hampton-Norfolk, Va.; Vasiliadis and Fox also report for WUSA-TV, Washington, D.C.