What to Know
- McDonnell was convicted in 2014 of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement.
- In June, the Supreme Court ruled the jury received faulty instructions about what constitutes bribery under federal law.
- The Justice Department and the defense jointly asked for the deadline to decide what to do next in the case to be extended to September 19.
The U.S. Attorney wants three more weeks to consider the next steps in the case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose corruption conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in a ruling that will make it harder to prosecute elected officials accused of bribery.
The Justice Department and McDonnell's defense lawyers jointly asked a federal appeals court for more time before they have to say what they think should happen next, given the Supreme Court decision. The deadline for them to file was this coming Monday, but Friday they jointly asked for the deadline to be extended to Sept. 19.
"The parties have been conferring, and that process has progressed but has not been completed within the Department of Justice," their joint motion said.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled the jury received faulty instructions about what constitutes bribery under federal law.
McDonnell was convicted in 2014 of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement.
McDonnell said he never took any official action to benefit Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams or pressured other public officials to do so. McDonnell said he simply performed routine courtesies for Williams, like setting up meetings and hosting events.
Prosecutors said McDonnell accepted personal benefits with the understanding he would try to take official action to help Williams.
A jury found McDonnell guilty of breaking a law that bars public officials from taking gifts in exchange for "official action." He was sentenced to two years in prison, but remained free while the high court considered his appeal.
There is no dispute that McConnell received multiple payments and gifts from Williams, which was not illegal at the time under Virginia ethics laws. But McDonnell said he did nothing in return except help a constituent reach out and make his pitch to other public officials.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said the law cannot punish politicians for giving their constituents access to public officials who are willing to listen but don't actually exercise government power. He said setting up a meeting, talking to another official or organizing an event does not meet the definition of an official act under the law.
The gifts included almost $20,000 in designer clothing and accessories for McDonnell's wife, a $6,500 engraved Rolex watch, $15,000 in catering for their daughter's wedding, and free family vacations and golf trips for their boys. Williams also provided three loans totaling $120,000.
As the gifts came in, McDonnell helped set up meetings with state health officials, appeared at promotional events and even hosted a launch luncheon for the dietary supplement at the governor's mansion. Williams was seeking state money and the credibility of Virginia's universities to perform clinical research that would support his company's drug.
McDonnell insists that he never put any pressure on state officials and that Williams ultimately never got the official action he wanted -- state funding for medical studies on the dietary pills. The former governor argued the Justice Department was unfairly criminalizing "everyday acts" that are a typical part of job, leaving every public official across the nation subject to the whims of prosecutors.
A federal appeals court unanimously upheld the former governor's convictions last year.
McDonnell's wife, Maureen, also was convicted of corruption and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. Her appeal was on hold as the Supreme Court considered her husband's case.
Legal analysts told News4 they expect Maureen McDonnell's conviction to also be vacated.