Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for corruption. He must report to prison by Feb. 9. U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer handed down the sentence at the federal courthouse in Richmond after a morning hearing that featured arguments from federal prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Prosecutors were seeking 10 to 12 years in prison while McDonnell’s attorneys were seeking to avoid prison time by asking for 6,000 hours of community service. During the morning hearing, the judge lowered the sentencing guidelines for the ex-governor to 6 1/2 to 8 years.
“I think that it is a tragedy,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “[He’s] a man who was hoping to reach the highest office in the land, and to be brought down on ethics violations has to send a message that elected officials need to take ethics seriously.”
Halber added that most people will see the two-year sentence as the ex-governor getting a break considering he could have served up to 12 years in prison.
McDonnell was convicted in September of 11 counts of public corruption. His wife, Maureen, was found guilty of eight corruption-related charges and an additional count of obstruction of justice, which was later thrown out. Her sentencing is set for Feb. 20.
The ethics violations involved the acceptance of bribes totaling $177,000 while McDonnell was governor. The couple accepted gifts, money and vacations from former Star Scientific CEO Johnnie Williams.
Rabbi Michael Knopf, who leads Temple Beth-El, a Conservative synagogue in Richmond, said he was disappointed that the sentence is less than the maximum that the law allows.
“It would be one thing if [McDonnell] was repentant about his actions but that doesn’t seem to be the case,” said Knopf. “It is really troubling to me that there is the sense that our leaders don’t really work for us and are not responsible to us and it seems like the McDonnells certainly felt that way when they were in office. Getting a lighter than necessary sentence seems to me to reinforce that perception and will reinforce it for future politicians as well.”