Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the public corruption cases of the former governor of Virginia and his wife — Robert F. McDonnell and Maureen G. McDonnell — are working toward an August 29 deadline on where to go next with both prosecutions.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a brief order on Friday, told both sides to notify that court by that date whether they have agreed on what’s next in Mrs. McDonnell’s case — the same kind of order issued in the governor’s case late last month.
Both were convicted of public corruption charges for allegedly using the governor’s office and the privileges of that office in return for lavish gifts and big loans from a wealthy private businessman. They allegedly helped the businessman promote within state government a commercial product his company had developed.
The governor was sentenced to two years in prison, and Mrs. McDonnell was given a sentence of one-year and one day. Neither has yet been imprisoned; they have remained free while pursuing separate appeals.
The key difference between the cases at this point is that the former governor’s conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in late June. Mrs. McDonnell’s conviction still stands, at least for now, and her case had not yet completed the appeal process at the Fourth Circuit Court because it was awaiting the outcome of her husband’s appeal to the Supreme Court. The evidence in the two cases is overlapping in significant ways.
In a motion last Monday, Mrs. McDonnell’s lawyers had argued that the result in her husband’s case should lead to an overturning of her conviction, too. They also asked that her case be kept on hold until the two sides had conferred on the next step.
Federal prosecutors did not join in that request to overturn her conviction, but they did go along with the idea of a delay in her case during further consultations.
The Circuit Court’s order on Friday did not disturb her conviction. It told the lawyers on both sides to either file a proposed new schedule on how to deal with the issues in her case, or a report on “a resolution of the case.” The deadline is the same as for a similar report due in her husband’s case from both sides, August 29.
In overturning the ex-governor’s conviction, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial judge had given too broad a definition of the kind of “official acts” that would support a corruption conviction of an elected official. The Court, while vacating his conviction, left it to the appeals court to decide whether there is enough evidence to put on a new trial, or too little evidence to do so. If a new trial would be futile, the charges would have to be dismissed, the Court declared.