RICHMOND, Va. – Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, once viewed as a rising star in the GOP, and his wife were indicted Tuesday on federal corruption charges accusing the couple of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in loans, shopping sprees, money for their daughter’s wedding – and even a joyride in a Ferrari – from the owner of a company that makes health supplements.
The 14-count indictment portrays the former governor as deeply entrenched in credit card debt even before he took office and willing to accept lavish gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who hoped the first couple’s endorsement for his products would yield big profits for his company.
McDonnell appeared Tuesday night at a hastily called news conference in Richmond to strongly deny any wrongdoing and denounce what he said was an “unjust overreach” by federal prosecutors.
“I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal friendship and his generosity,” said McDonnell, who was flanked by his wife, daughter and son-in-law as he read from prepared remarks.
While still in office, the governor apologized for accepting the gifts and repaid thousands to Williams. Limited to a single term by state law, McDonnell left the executive mansion earlier this month in disgrace, his approval numbers low and his political future in tatters.
At one time, McDonnell had been considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney.
Twelve of the counts are punishable by up to 20 years in prison each, and two are punishable by up to 30 years.