Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday, months after he and his wife were convicted on public corruption charges.
Once a rising star in the Republican party, McDonnell was stone-faced in court as the sentence was pronounced. His wife, Maureen, sobbed, reported News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey.
Bob McDonnell must report to the bureau of prisons Feb. 9. His attorneys have asked that he be housed at the closest prison, in Petersburg, Virginia.
He has also announced his plans to appeal the verdict as early as tonight or tomorrow morning.
Upon leaving court, McDonnell thanked the judge for the "mercy" shown in his sentence. He said he had "fallen" and had made mistakes, but that he wouldn't have been able to handle the "news of the day without the love of so many people around the state."
"Some of the judgments I have made during the course of my governorship have hurt myself, my family and my beloved people of Virginia, and for that I am deeply, deeply sorry," McDonnell said. "But I would also say to the great people of Virginia that I have never, ever betrayed my sacred oath of office in any way while I served as the governor of this great Commonwealth."
Leading up to Tuesday's sentencing, prosecutors had said 10 to 12 years in prison was appropriate for the former governor. But Tuesday, McDonnell's attorneys successfully made their case that those guidelines had been incorrectly calculated, and the judge adjusted the sentencing guidelines down to six to eight years.
However, McDonnell's attorneys had also asked that he be allowed to perform three years of community service in lieu of prison time.
"This entire case has been a tragedy from beginning to end..." said Judge James Spencer said before the sentencing. "A price must be paid... It breaks my heart."
Both the McDonnells were convicted in September on multiple charges involving accepting more than $165,000 in gifts, trips and loans from a wealthy businessman. The couple accepted gifts including a Rolex watch, designer clothing and vacations in exchange for promoting a purported miracle cure made by Star Scientific Inc.
The company's former CEO, Jonnie Williams, testified under immunity as the prosecution's star witness in a case that exposed the details of the McDonnells' shaky finances and troubled marriage.
In a strong but somber voice, Bob McDonnell told the judge before sentencing that he was "a heartbroken and humbled man" and that he holds himself accountable.
"I allowed my life to get way out of balance," he said.
At the trial, the former governor said he began working unnecessarily late, just to avoid his wife's angry outbursts and begged her to work on their deteriorating marriage. Defense attorneys claimed Maureen McDonnell developed a "crush" on Williams and was largely responsible for the couple's cozy relationship with Williams.
McDonnell testified in his own defense during the six-week trial, acknowledging that he accepted Williams' largesse but did nothing for him in return other than extend routine political courtesies. He was convicted of 11 counts.
"I'm 60 years old. Whatever days the Lord allows me, I dedicate anew to the service of others," said McDonnell.
"It breaks my heart, but I have a duty I can't avoid," the judge said.
Virginia's current governor, Terry McAuliffe, called the McDonnell investigation and trial "one of the most difficult periods in the history of Virginia state government" in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
"Like many Virginians, I am saddened by the effect this trial has had on our Commonwealth’s reputation for clean, effective government," McAuliffe said. " I look forward to working with Virginia leaders on both sides of the aisle to restore public trust in our government."
Maureen McDonnell, who did not testify, was initially convicted on nine counts, but one was later thrown out. She will be sentenced Feb. 20.