Robert F. McDonnell, the only Virginia governor ever to be found guilty of corruption, may actually have a good shot at having his convictions reversed on appeal, according to some legal experts.
I have the story in this week’s Style Weekly.
The issue, which has been tossed around many times, involves how broadly or narrowly “honest services fraud” can be interpreted. The key points are whether or not McDonnell and his co-convict and wife Maureen did deny the public the “intangible right” of honest services by taking something of value in exchange for an action.
A further complication is that if they did, in fact, take an action in exchange for something, was it an “official” action? It tends to worry lawyers from such law schools as Harvard, the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary.
Among some of their worries are that if McDonnell took money from star prosecution witness Jonnie R. Williams but took no specific action for the vitamin salesman, how is that different from a president granting a donor an ambassadorship.
Another concern that “honest services” statutes can be so “vaguely worded” that they could allow prosecutors to carve out a new crime that the defendants might not know they are committing.
I covered most of the six-week-long trial for Bloomberg News last summer and there is no question in my mind that the McDonnells’ behavior was shameful. U.S. District Judge James Spencer tended to go with a broad interpretation of the law.
We’ll see when arguments for McDonnell’s appeal start May 12 at the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. I’ll keep my own legal opinions to myself for the moment.There are currently no comments highlighted.