Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell has been sentenced to 24 months in a minimum security prison for his corruption conviction on 11 different counts related to conspiracy to commit fraud.
Judge James Spencer issued the sentence after hearing brief arguments from lawyers and testimony from 11 character witnesses. In addition to the expected testimony about his good character, witnesses included faith-based non-profit leaders who asked the judge to allow McDonnell to serve with their organizations instead of in prison. A member of the House of Delegates testified that the conviction itself was a sufficient deterrent for other lawmakers, rather than a harsh sentence.
The charges against the former governor and his wife Maureen McDonnell stemmed from favors they gave to Jonnie Williams, a vitamin company CEO, in exchange for over $165,000 in gifts and loans. Maureen McDonnell was convicted on eight out of 11 conspiracy charges.
Following the sentencing, McDonnell was not remanded immediately to custody but ordered to return to serve his sentence on Feb. 9.
McDonnell also has a substantial appeal working its way through the system. The critical issue, George Mason University School of Law Assistant Dean Richard Kelsey told CBS News, is what constitutes an official act.
"In order for him to be guilty of this scheme of fraud, he had to take an official act as governor," Kelsey said, "and what the prosecution has said, is that when he hosted a party at his house to launch this product for Jonnie Williams, that was an official act. Does that constitute an official act?" It's a broad interpretation of case law.
Maureen McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20. Kelsey said that during the trial, Maureen McDonnell "did not come out as a sympathetic figure," but because she was not a sitting political official, she's likely to get a fraction of the time that her husband receives.