mcdonnells arraignedBy Peter Galuszka

The courtroom was packed and I ended up in the hallway of Richmond’s fairly new and modern look federal courts building. Inside, history was being made: a bond hearing for Robert F. McDonnell, the first Virginia governor, former or sitting, ever to be charged with misconduct while in office.

Inside, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak asked McDonnell and his co-defendant wife Maureen if they understood the severity of the 14 felony counts against them. This would be unlikely, but if they were convicted of every corruption count and got the maximum sentence running consecutively, they would be in jail for 300 years. I actually did the math on my notebook.

That factoid becomes more bizarre when one realizes that just a year ago, McDonnell’s name was being touted as a possible GOP presidential contender in 2016. In 2012, he might have been Mitt Romney’s running mate had Vaginal Ultrasound not caught him with him.

Novak waived bail and released the McDonnells but they had to surrender their passports. He issued a gag order stating that “the gamesmanship with the media ends now” — an obvious reference to the months of leaks that have energized the state and national media about the case.

Another court matter awaited upstairs. As the McDonnells emerged, there was much emotional hugging. House Speaker Bill Howell, a loyal McDonnell supporter, had been standing with me in the overflow and he’d didn’t look too happy. A Catholic priest from the parish where the McDonnells attended on Church Hill grasped their shoulders from time to time.

Upstairs was the arraignment in a larger courtroom before U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer. The McDonnells sat stage right with their attorneys and some of their children were in the courtroom. McDonald still wore his hair in a flawless helmet but it seemed a lot more grey than the last time I had seen him personally.

The McDonnells pleaded not guilty. Trial was set for July 28 and it should last five to six weeks.

A mob scene of cameras greeted the former First Couple as they exited on Broad Street. There was screaming and I guess it came from the reporters. They finally entered a white van and left.

Speaker Howell had actually tried calling federal prosecutors before the indictments were issued Jan. 21 to say that McDonnell was a fine man and public servant. His call was not accepted. As he and I had been standing outside of Judge Novak’s courtroom, I introduced myself and asked about ethics reform since Virginia has among the most lax ethics laws in the nation.

“It’s coming,” Howell said.

I asked if that meant an ethics commission. “We have one,” he replied.

“Will it have subpoena power?” I asked.

Howell gave me a hard look and said “no.”

It was one of the scenes where you have to pinch yourself to remind yourself that it is real.

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5 responses to “In Court With the McDonnells”

  1. I’m surprised that the McDonnell apologists here are not calling you an ambulance chaser!


  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Paying gig larry i am interested how the conservatives respond i do not expect much

  3. just tweaking you! but do appreciate you keep up with the story… good shoe-leather journalism!

  4. Ambulance chasing is the best way to get across town during rush hour. In the McDonnell case it’s the quickest way to cut through the BS from both parties.

  5. mbaldwin Avatar

    Thanks for going, for reporting, and for those good questions to Howell. If we can’t get meaningful ethics reforms on this round, then when?

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