Thursday, September 4, 2014

The McDonnell Verdict

Well it is a sad day for Virginia. For the first time in history a Virginia Governor has been convicted of a crime. Of course we still will need to get several more Governors’ convicted to catch up to Maryland, New Jersey and Illinois..

But all jokes aside, it is sad.

No matter your party affiliation, as Virginians we must acknowledge that it is a dark day for our great commonwealth. Our state has been free of corruption since our first settlement in Jamestown.

In addition it is a tragedy for the McDonnell family. I have had the pleasure of talking to Bob and Maureen McDonnell on a number of occasions. I chatted with the Governor a couple times at the Governors mansion, and the first lady even did an interview on my blog. I will admit I have tremendous respect for him. As a public servant he was first rate. As a Governor he was one of the best.

I am sure for years people will second guess the defense strategy of blaming it all on the wife, and will question McDonnell’s decision not to take a plea deal, which reportedly would have had him plead guilty to one felony charge, with his wife not being indicted, and no trial.

The jury has spoken, but I must say I was a little shocked by the decision. It was a weak case based on one witness, who, received immunity from the prosecution on another case. Williams got nothing from McDonnell. McDonnell did nothing for Williams.

But in the wake of their decision I have two concerns. First, will this decision emboldened the Department of Justice to go after other Governors and state officials they don’t like on “corruption” charges? Probably.

It is easy to at least get an indictment. Just look at Rick Perry in Texas. It seems that the Governor vetoed an appropriation that he didn’t like. Hardly an abuse of power, but in this day and age of the public hating politicians almost any grounds to indict or even convict will work.

The second concern I have. Virginia Governors, for that matter all Governors, are supposed to promote their state’s businesses and industries. Well, now might future Virginia Governors avoid any promotion of a Virginia business for fear of a possible indictment from an over zealous federal prosecutor?

My guess is it will always be easy for a prosecutor to find some spurious connection between a business and a Governor who has in the past said a few nice things about the company. Perhaps a cousin worked for the company, a contributor; maybe an executive gave money to the Governors campaign.etc

When you think about it, getting an indictment or even a conviction isn’t that hard. Especially when a politician is the defendant. Juries have no sympathy for politicians.

The McDonnell’s will no doubt appeal. Perhaps justice will prevail after all. And the fact that neither of the McDonnells have criminal records should mean little jail time.

No comments: