The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Wednesday in McDonnell v. United States [transcript, PDF]. The court is being asked to decide the meaning of “official action” under the fraud statutes used to convict former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for taking official action to benefit a benefactor. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF] McDonnell’s corruption conviction for accepting money in exchange for assisting a Virginia company in securing university testing of a dietary supplement. Counsel for McDonnell argued, “In order to engage in “official action,” an official must either make a government decision or urge someone else to do so. The line is between access to decisionmakers on the one hand and trying to influence those decisions on the other.” Analysts predict that the court is likely to throw out [WSJ report] McDonnell’s conviction.
In 2014 McDonnell and his wife Maureen were accused [USA Today report] of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the CEO of Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for favors for and promotions of the company. During the trial [WP timeline] damning evidence was produced showing how the McDonnells frequently promoted the dietary supplements of Star Scientific. The McDonnells were found guilty of the 11 counts of corruption, and Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years and Maureen received a sentence of one year and one day. An attorney for Bob McDonnell said he would appeal [JURIST report] his public corruption convictions to the Supreme Court after the Fourth Circuit refused to reconsider the case.