Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell appeared to be headed to jail Friday after a federal appeals court affirmed his convictions on 11 counts of selling his office to help a businessman who plied him with gifts and loans.
Despite speculation by legal experts that McDonnell had a strong case on appeal, the decision against him by three Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal judges appointed by Democrats was unanimous.
In an 80 page opinion, the judges recited the sordid details of the case.
The businessman, Jonnie Williams, "lavished [McDonnell] with shopping sprees, money, loans, golf outings and vacations," wrote Judge Stephanie D. Thacker. "None of these payments were goodwill gifts from one friend to another."
Her opinion was joined by Judges Diana Motz and Robert King.
Most of the opinion focused on McDonnell's assertion that he did nothing of value to help Williams, who wanted scientific studies at state universities of his claims that his dietary supplements derived from tobacco plants helped treat inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The studies never took place.
But Thacker pointed to evidence that McDonnell ordered state officials to meet with Williams, hosted a "product launch" for the supplement, Anatabloc, at the governor's mansion, and pushed state officials to conduct research on it. She said that these were "official acts" in return for the $177,000 in gifts and loans provided to McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, by Williams.
McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison; his wife, who was tried with him, was sentenced to one year. Her appeal is pending. The appeals court had taken the unusual step of keeping Bob McDonnell out of prison pending the resolution of his appeal.