Judge Receives More Than 400 Letters Supporting Ex-Va. Gov | NBC4 Washington
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Judge Receives More Than 400 Letters Supporting Ex-Va. Gov

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    Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Aug. 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    The judge who will sentence former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for public corruption has received 443 letters attesting to McDonnell's integrity and asking for mercy.

    The letter writers include family members, former colleagues, neighbors, longtime friends, priests and state legislators. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and former state House Democratic leader Ward Armstrong also put in a good word for the Republican.

    McDonnell, once widely considered a top prospect for national office, will be sentenced Tuesday on 11 counts.

    Nearly all the letters describe McDonnell as an honorable man who did not intend to break the law when he and family members accepted more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a vitamin executive who was seeking government support for his company's products. Some questioned why the executive, former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, got immunity for testifying against McDonnell.

    Some relatives blamed McDonnell's troubles on his wife, Maureen, who was convicted of eight counts and was portrayed at trial as emotionally unstable and eager to cash in on Williams' free-spending ways. She will be sentenced Feb. 20.

    Bob McDonnell's attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge James Spencer to order three years of community service. Prosecutors say in court papers that the claims of good character are belied by McDonnell's lack of remorse and willingness to blame others. They want a prison sentence of at least 10 years.

    Here's a brief look at some of the letters:

    Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky, the oldest of the five McDonnell children, calls her father "the least materialistic person that I have ever known.''

    "My mom, in contrast, has always been concerned about getting discounts or freebees...She hid her coordination with people for free or discounted things or services and she didn't communicate with my dad because she knew he would not approve.''

    Zubowsky said her father quietly endured his wife's screaming when they fought over the way Maureen McDonnell mistreated other people.

    "[T]estimony about my mom was not just part of a defense strategy and was not an attempt to 'throw her under the bus,' but unfortunately, was the reality,'' she wrote.

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    Nancy McDonnell Naisawald said her big brother was unaware of many of his wife's actions.

    "He only learned of his wife's many inappropriate interactions with Williams after the investigation began,'' she wrote. "He surrounded his wife with many trusted staff and advisors to help her adjust to her position as First lady. She neither trusted nor accepted their advice, preferring to make her own misguided choices.''

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    Bob McDonnell's youngest sister, also named Maureen, offered a new example of her sister-in-law's "inappropriate behavior'' - a letter 25 years ago to sister Maureen's college boyfriend, an unnamed NFL quarterback, requesting money and asking him not to tell Bob.

    "The tragedy is, none of us, including me, wanted to tell Bob about his wife's conduct for fear of hurting him, particularly when he was so busy as a state delegate and lawyer to running the Commonwealth and Republican Governors Association. Our silence, in an effort to protect Bob, is something we all have to live with.''

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    Rachel McDonnell, the McDonnells' youngest child, said that her mother showed her some designer clothing and accessories Williams bought for her.

    "She specifically told me not to tell my dad that Jonnie purchased these items for her because she knew this is not something he would approve,'' she wrote, adding that her father also didn't know that she and her sister used Williams' airline points for a trip to Savannah, Georgia.

    "Please do not hold my dad accountable for my family's actions when he was not aware of everything that was going on.''

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    Kaine praised McDonnell for restoring the voting rights of more than 8,000 felons, more than any previous governor.

    "I am convinced that Governor McDonnell showed mercy to convicted felons not for political reasons or because he had anything personally to gain by doing so. The merciful attitude exhibited by this positive action is characteristic of him as an individual,'' Kaine wrote.

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    University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan wrote that if McDonnell had wanted to pressure the university to research anything, he had many opportunities to do so in their private conversations. She added, "Never, at any time, was there any pressure put on me of this sort.''

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    Former Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger likewise wrote that McDonnell never made any inappropriate requests. He added: "With all due respect, it is of considerable concern to me that Mr. Williams was granted immunity from prosecution. Actions such as this contribute to the loss of public confidence in our institutions.''