US & Canada

Virginia ex-Governor McDonnell and wife guilty of corruption

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption McDonnell was once considered a rising star of the Republican party

A court in Virginia has found the former state governor, Bob McDonnell, and his wife guilty of corruption.

Mr McDonnell, who left office in January, was once a rising star of the Republican Party.

A federal jury concluded that he and his wife - who say they are now estranged - used his office to endorse the dietary supplements of a businessman in return for lavish gifts and loans.

They will be sentenced on 6 January.

Mr McDonnell, 60, was convicted on 11 charges, including wire fraud and receiving property based on his official duties.

His wife, former first lady Maureen McDonnell, 60, was found guilty on nine of the charges.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The couple both wept when the jury delivered their guilty verdicts

They were both found not guilty of falsifying financial statements.

Both bowed their heads and wept as the jury delivered their verdicts of guilty.

Although the McDonnells can appeal, they could face years in prison.

"This is a difficult and disappointing day for the commonwealth and its citizens," said the US Attorney for Virginia's Eastern District, Dana Boente, outside the courthouse in the state capital Richmond.

"Public service frequently requires sacrifice and almost always requires financial sacrifice."

Mr McDonnell was once considered a possible running mate for presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Lawyers for Mrs McDonnell, shown in a May 2011 file photo with Mr Williams, say she had personal affection for him and that her marriage to the governor was on the rocks

But earlier this year he and his wife were charged with doing favours for a wealthy vitamin executive, Jonnie Williams, in return for more than $165,000 (£100,000) in gifts and loans.

Prosecutors say Mr McDonnell was in financial need and traded on his position to win gifts of travel and cash from Mr Williams, for whom he arranged meetings with state officials.

His defence team argued Mr McDonnell's marriage was frayed and he was hardly on speaking terms with his wife who had a "crush" on Mr Williams and had accepted gifts from him.

Mr McDonnell had apologized for his own "bad judgment" and said he regretted accepting the gifts and loans, but stressed he paid it all back with interest and broke no laws.

The governor left office in disgrace in January at the end of his term.

Virginia governors are barred from running for a second consecutive term, and he was succeeded by Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

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