Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gets 2 years for corruption

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Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gets 2 years for corruption
Former Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell was sentenced to one year and one day in prison during a sentencing hearing Friday afternoon.
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Maureen McDonnell walks to her corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and her husband Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - JANUARY 24: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (2ndR) and his wife, Maureen (2nd-L) leave the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, on January 24, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen pleaded not guilty to a 14 count criminal indictment from federal grand jury charging that the couple violated federal corruption laws by using their positions to benefit a wealthy businessman who gave them gifts and loans. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - JANUARY 24: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen leave the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, on January 24, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen pleaded not guilty to a 14 count criminal indictment from federal grand jury charging that the couple violated federal corruption laws by using their positions to benefit a wealthy businessman who gave them gifts and loans. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 29: Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell (C) leaves her trial at U.S. District Court house August 29, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and her husband, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company, Star Scientific (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 3: Maureen McDonell arrives separately from her husband as jury deliberations in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, on September, 03, 2014 in Richmond, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 29: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell leaves his trial at U.S. District Court, August 29, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company, Star Scientific. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA JULY 31: Witness Jonnie R. Williams Sr. departs the Spottswood W. Robinson III and Robert R. Merhige, Jr., Federal Courthouse following a day of testimony in a federal corruption charge against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 3: Former Governor Bob McDonnell departs the courthouse after a second day of jury deliberations in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, on September, 03, 2014 in Richmond, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 09: U.S. Army Sgt. Wesley Watkins of Union Bridge, Maryland, reads from Jill Biden's 'Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops' as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (C) and his wife Maureen McDonnell visit the KinderCare Learning Center August 9, 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia. A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Gov. McDonnell's visit to the center is part of KinderCare's Honoring the Troops program taking place at the end of August in Virginia and Maryland. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 09: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (C) and his wife Maureen McDonnell (3rd R) say hello to a young student while visiting the KinderCare Learning Center August 9, 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia. A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Gov. McDonnell's visit to the center is part of KinderCare's Honoring the Troops program taking place at the end of August in Virginia and Maryland. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In this courtroom sketch at the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, center, and his wife, former first lady Maureen McDonnell, second from right, Judge James R. Spencer, left, presides during jury selection Monday, July 28, 2014, in Richmond, Va. Bob and Maureen McDonnell are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from the CEO of a dietary supplements company in exchange for helping promote his products. The defense team is gathered at a courtroom table and includes Victoria Taraktchian, John L. Brownlee, Robert McDonnell, Henry W. "Hank" Asbill, Marjorie Fargo, Maureen McDonnell, and William "Bill" Burck at left. Foreground figure, third from right, is Stephen Hauss. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 28: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (C) leaves his trial at U.S. District Court with his son Bobby (R) August 28, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company, Star Scientific. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, arrives at federal court with his attorneys, John Brownlee, left, and Henry Asbill, right, in Richmond, Va., Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. McDonnell presents his defense in his corruption trial today. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell , right, is swarmed by the media as he arrives at federal court in Richmond, Va., Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. McDonnell presents his defense today. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell, center, is flanked by daughters Rachel McDonnell, left, and Cailin Young, right, as they arrive at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Va,, Monday, July 28, 2014, on the first day of jury selection in the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife in Richmond, Va. Bob and Maureen McDonnell are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from the CEO of a dietary supplements company in exchange for helping promote his products. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, left, is escorted out of Federal court by a security officer after a motions hearing in Richmond, Va., Monday, May 19, 2014. The Republican former governor and his wife are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for helping promote his products. They have pleaded not guilty. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell asked a judge for mercy for his wife, as well as himself, before being sentenced to two years in prison for public corruption.

Tuesday's sentence was much lighter than what prosecutors wanted and likely foreshadows similar treatment for Maureen McDonnell when she is sentenced next month for her role in the bribery scandal, legal experts say.

"Her circumstances will be considered individually, and I would expect her sentence to be somewhat lower than the ex-governor since she did not breach the public's trust to the degree that her husband did," said Jeff Bellin, a professor at the College of William and Mary Law School and a former federal prosecutor.

Another good sign for Maureen McDonnell is that U.S. District Judge James Spencer tossed out one of her convictions last year, leaving only eight - three less than her husband.

"This all adds up to what's likely to be a fairly minimal sentence for her," said Scott Fredericksen, another former federal prosecutor and now a defense attorney.

A jury in September convicted the McDonnells of corruption for taking more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from wealthy vitamin entrepreneur Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his products.

Prosecutors originally sought a sentence of more than 10 years for Bob McDonnell, whose lawyers recommended three years of community service.

Family members and friends who packed the courtroom wept softly as the former governor, once on the short list for Mitt Romney's running mate, told Spencer in a strong but somber voice that he couldn't "fathom any deeper humiliation" than standing before him convicted of felonies.

The judge noted the outpouring of support McDonnell received from more than 400 people who wrote letters pleading for leniency. He said McDonnell "is a good and decent man who has done a lot of good in the public arena" but that his crimes warranted prison time.

"It breaks my heart, but I have a duty I can't avoid," the judge said.

McDonnell, who held his head in his hands and sobbed when he was convicted four months ago, was stoic as Spencer handed down the sentence. Some of the supporters' tears quickly turned to smiles.

"We certainly came in thinking we could be facing a whole lot worse," the former governor's sister, also named Maureen McDonnell, later told reporters.

Outside the courthouse, McDonnell thanked the judge for mercy and vowed to fight his convictions on appeal.

"I've hurt myself, my family and my beloved people of Virginia and for that I am deeply, deeply sorry. But I will also say to the great people of Virginia that I have never, ever betrayed my sacred oath of office in any way while I served as the governor of this great commonwealth," McDonnell told reporters.

Before sentencing, defense lawyers called a parade of character witnesses to enumerate McDonnell's good qualities - his integrity and compassion for the less fortunate in particular - and good deeds in both public and private life.

Several witnesses said a lenient sentence was warranted because McDonnell had already suffered significantly from the fallout of a highly public and embarrassing investigation and trial. Former Democratic Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said that if not for McDonnell's legal troubles, he would be remembered as one of Virginia's finest governors and would be a strong candidate for president.

"He's been punished, been punished indelibly," Wilder said.

Wilder received a loud round of applause after sparring with prosecutor Michael Dry and pointing out that Williams, who testified under immunity for the prosecution, "walked away clean."

Dry said Williams was in a different category.

"The Mr. Williamses of the world are a dime a dozen. Corrupt governors are not," Dry said.

The couple's defense strategy at trial depended in large part on convincing the jury that their marriage was so strained that they could not have conspired to squeeze bribes out of Williams. Many witnesses pinned most of the blame on Maureen McDonnell, who was portrayed as emotionally unstable and eager to accept gifts form Williams behind her husband's back - a theme repeated by some of those who wrote letters urging leniency for the former governor.

Spencer said those who blame Maureen McDonnell are "dangerously delusional," providing perhaps another hint about the thinking that will shape his decision when she is sentenced.

McDonnell is the first Virginia governor, and the 12th nationally, convicted of corruption, federal officials said.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Felberbaum contributed to this report.

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