The former Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell’s attorneys argued Monday in an 101-page appeal brief that their client shouldn’t be convicted of corruption counts since the federal corruption laws did not include her actions.
Also, Mrs. McDonnell said that she did not knowingly help her husband favor a Richmond businessman in exchange of expensive loans and gifts. Her lawyers also requested Monday that she should be at least granted a new trial.
On Monday, Maureen McDonnell, 61, was trying maybe too hard to convince the judges from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn her convictions or at least allow her to have a new trial. Her husband and former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, who was also convicted of public corruption, filed a very similar but separate appeal with the same court.
Mr. McDonnell was accused of abusing his power and prestige to help a businessman promote his business in exchange of a $177,000 bribe, consisting in loans, luxury items and exotic vacations.
But Maureen McDonnell denies that her husband took the bribe or promised to help the Richmond business man in any “official” way. She also denies her role in the scheme, and claims that jurors were not informed correctly on the issue.
Both Mrs. and Mr. McDonnell claim that a common trial was not appropriate and that prospective jurors were not carefully selected.
In her appeal, Mrs. McDonnell argued that she couldn’t have knowingly conspired with her husband since she had only a high-school diploma, was not a law expert, nor did she served in a public office a day in her life. She also said that she had no idea of her husband’s business relationship with the businessman.
Three months ago, Mr. McDonnell was convicted of corruption and sentenced to serve two years in prison. His wife was sentenced to a year and a day two months ago. They had a common trial but their appeals went separate.
Mr. McDonnell’s prosecutors would be ready for oral arguments on May 12, while Mrs. McDonnell’s prosecutors would file a written response next month, too.
On Friday, Maureen McDonnell was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Spencer to 366 days in prison on eight corruption counts. Prosecution, however, sought 18 months, while defense attorneys argued for a probation and community service.
Former Virginia Governor was convicted on 11 counts and forced to serve two-year jail time. He is currently free on bond until the appeals court settles his case.
In September both McDonnells were found guilty of receiving $177,000 in loans and expensive gifts from Jonnie Williams, the chief executive of Star Scientific Inc.
According to the deal, the McDonnells were supposed to abuse their position and promote the company’s products. In exchange for their services, the couple received expensive gifts such as $20,000 worth of designer clothing for Mrs. McDonnell and a $6,500 Rollex for her husband.
Robert “Bob” McDonnell, who saw his political career go down the drain over the course of the six-week trial, testified. His wife didn’t.
Maureen McDonnell is the first spouse of the state to be involved in such a huge scandal. A century ago, a former West Virginia first lady was charged that she had forged her husband’s signature but was later acquitted. However, none of the first ladies were sentenced to a prison term.
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