Former Virginia ‘Governor vaginal probe’ and his wife are charged

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

GVPIt's been a long time coming, but today prosecutors charged former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell aka "Governor vaginal probe" and his wife Maureen were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government. Former Va. Gov. McDonnell and wife charged in gifts case:

The two were charged with 14 felony counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obtaining property under color of their official office and conspiring to the do the same.

They were also charged with making false statements to a federal credit union.

McDonnell was also charged with making a false statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the investigation.

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Authorities alleged that McDonnell and his wife received gifts from executive Jonnie R. Williams again and again, lodging near constant requests for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides.

In exchange, authorities alleged that the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governorship to Williams’s struggling company, a small former cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.

McDonnell, 59, is the first governor ever to face criminal charges in a state that has prided itself on a history of relatively ethically clean politics.

The threat of indictment had loomed over the final months of his four year term, which ended with the inauguration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Jan. 11. Though U.S. Attorney Dana Boente had informed McDonnell in December that he intended to pursue charges, McDonnell made a final appeal to top Department of Justice officials in Washington and no action was taken until 10 days after he left office.

McDonnell’s indictment comes in the midst of the General Assembly’s annual legislative session and is likely to accelerate efforts to overhaul the state’s ethics and gifts laws, long considered some of the most lax in the nation. McAuliffe and leading state lawmakers in both parties have both already said they support such changes.

The criminal prosecution also marks stunning crash for a politician who was considered for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2012 and just a year ago was considered a credible future candidate for president.

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The governor’s career began to quietly fray more than a year ago in the most mundane of ways: a tip to a state fraud hotline alleging that the chef at the state’s 200-year old executive mansion was pilfering food from the kitchen.

When questioned by authorities, the chef quickly offered up information about potentially far more serious wrongdoing in the mansion.

In March 2012, chef Todd Schneider handed over documents that showed Williams paid $15,000 for the catering at the 2011 wedding of McDonnell’s daughter. McDonnell had not disclosed the gift, later saying there was no need because the money was a wedding present to his daughter and state law requires only elected officials, not their family members, to annually disclose gifts.

But the chef also provided evidence that it was McDonnell himself who had signed the catering contract, assuming financial responsibility for the event. A $3,500 refund check from the catering company had gone to McDonnell’s wife Maureen, not Williams or to the young couple.

By November 2012, Ken Cuccinelli II, then the state’s attorney general, formally asked a local prosecutor in Richmond to conduct a full review of all of McDonnell’s annual financial disclosures.

At the same time, federal authorities were separately investigating securities transactions at Star Scientific.

For nearly six months, the twin investigations proceeded in secret and McDonnell’s reputation as a detail-oriented executive above ethical reproach remained intact.

But the governor’s unraveling accelerated with the March 30 publication of the Post story detailing Williams’ wedding gift, along with actions McDonnell and his wife had taken to promote Star Scientific in the same time frame.

Under mounting public scrutiny, the full extent of the McDonnells relationship unspooled over months: designer clothing for the First Lady, golf for the governor and his sons and a Rolex purchased for the governor at the First Lady’s recommendation, engraved with the words “71st Governor of Virginia.”

McDonnell’s legal situation became treacherous as the investigations intersected and Williams, whom McDonnell in the spring had described as a close family friend, began cooperating with authorities and offering evidence against the governor.

"McDonnell never explained why he and his wife had allowed such a man to become so closely entangled with their lives."

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey can breath a sigh of relief now that the Beltway media villagers have a new scandal to fixate on 24/7. The New York media will get back to you, Guv. They're not done with you.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post has published a copy of the indictment online here (pdf).

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