The McDonnell Case: A Clarification of Corruption Law or a Confusing Application of Corruption Law

Henry L. Chambers, Jr. *

On September 4, 2014, Governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen G. McDonnell, were convicted in federal court of various crimes related to their relationship with Jonnie Williams, a Virginia businessman, and his company Star Scientific.[1] Earlier in the year, the McDonnells were charged in a fourteen-count indictment primarily consisting of public corruption charges.[2] Governor McDonnell faced one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, three counts of honest-services wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, six counts of obtaining property under color of official right, and two counts of providing false statements, one on a financial statement and one on a loan application.[3] Governor McDonnell was convicted on all counts except the two false statement charges.[4] Mrs. McDonnell faced the same charges as Governor McDonnell, except she faced only one of the two false statement charges and was also charged with obstructing an official proceeding.[5]

Continue reading.


 

*   Professor of Law, University of Richmond. The author thanks Kelsey Martin for her research assistance.

        [1].    Verdict, United States v. McDonnell, 64 F. Supp. 3d 783 (E.D. Va. 2014) (No. 3:14cr12-JRS), 2014 WL 4383056; see Rosalind S. Helderman & Matt Zapotosky, Ex-Va. Governor Robert McDonnell Guilty of 11 Counts of Corruption, Wash. Post (Sept. 4, 2014), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/mcdonnell-jury-in-third-day-of-del iberations/2014/09/04/0e01ff88-3435-11e4-9e92-0899b306bbea_story.html.

        [2].    Indictment ¶¶ 108–23, United States v. McDonnell, 64 F. Supp. 3d 783 (E.D. Va. 2014) (No. 3:14cr12), 2014 WL 223601.

        [3].    Id. Conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (2012). Honest-services wire fraud is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (2012). See also 18 U.S.C. § 1346 (defining scheme to defraud under the mail and wire fraud statutes to include a scheme “to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services”). Conspiracy to obtain property under color of official rights and obtaining property under color of official right, also known as Hobbs Act violations, are codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (2012). The false statements statute at issue is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1014 (2012).

        [4].    Verdict, supra note 1.

        [5].    See Indictment, supra note 2, ¶¶ 108–23. The relevant obstruction charge is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) (2012).