Track rain in Richmond

Why that extra day on Maureen McDonnell’s 1-year sentence is everything

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

RICHMOND, Va. --Virginia's Former First Lady, Maureen McDonnell, was sentenced Friday to one year and one day in federal prison. She was found guilty of nine corruption charges, and the obstruction of justice charge was later dropped. No date has been set to report to prison, because she remains free while pending appeal, which Randy Singer said will be filed in a few days.

The prosecutor originally asked for 18 months, the defense asked for 4,000 hours of community service; which would've been two years full-time community service.

The judge sentencing her to one day over a year now qualifies McDonnell for time off for good behavior.

"Well, that year and a day is actually less than a 12-month sentence would be, because she gets credit (for good time served)…," said CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone.

He added that is a strategy commonly used by defense attorneys.

“I think that it was a big break, we have to keep in mind the guidelines for each of them was substantially higher than either one of them received,” Stone said. “The big break really came at the beginning with Gov. McDonnell’s sentencing when he showed this great compassion and all the good deeds that they've done and deserve credit for."

“Nobody can say they did not have a fair trial…, "Stone said.

Prosecution says First Couple humiliated themselves by their actions

Speaking during the government’s final rebuttal, Jessica D. Aber said the corruption crimes were criminal bribery and showed a sense of entitlement. The prosecution said that the only thing that separated Maureen from her husband is that she wasn’t a public official.

The prosecution also addressed the comments made about McDonnell’s stress as first lady, which was offered as a defense for her crimes. But compared to the stress of numerous other defendants, who live in Section 8 housing, or with crime lurking around the corner -- all the first lady had to do was give some public speeches, said the prosecution.

The government didn’t humiliate them by bringing this to light, they did by their own actions, the prosecutors said.

Maureen McDonnell

McDonnell spoke through many tears at her allocution; by law she could not be cross-examined.

“I blame no one but myself,” she said.

She thanked Judge Spencer for showing mercy on her husband, and she apologized to her family and to the Commonwealth and everyone.

“I let the serpent into the mansion, and the venom of that snake has poisoned my marriage, my family and the Commonwealth,” she said.

She demonstrated a depth that contradicted the prosecutor’s earlier allegations that she showed no remorse.

“The cry of my heart is that I am very sorry,” she said.

She did not have to show remorse, said Stone, “because she had the right to remain silent, she has a right to not testify and they have to prove a case against her.”

Will McDonnell wind up at Camp Cupcake? 

If she does go to prison for that year and a day that the prison will most likely be in the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia, where Martha Stewart went and where Billie Holiday served some time on a narcotics charge. The prison is located about 227 miles from Richmond [Take a look inside "Camp Cupcake," here, on CBS].

An inmate does not pick where they go but the Bureau of Prison does try to keep them as close to home as possible. “And usually it will be either in the same state or within a one-state radius,” Stone explained.


Aerial shot of Alderson Federal Prison. Wikimedia, by Aaron Bauer

“…In this case obviously [Maureen] would qualify for camps, which have the least security of all, which means they have the most freedom and can roam about all day,” Stone said. “It's not like being typically locked up.”

Originally former Gov. Bob McDonnell faced between eight and 10 years, and then the judge lowered that sentence to six to seven years, but his final tally was two years.

"The sentencing guidelines are where most people fall and so this case was substantially below that,” Stone said.

The wealth of evidence at Bob McDonnell’s trial, about the good deeds that he's done, his public service record, and his character traits, ultimately swayed Judge Spencer, Stone said.

When the cases go to appeal before the Fourth Circuit, there could be two different outcomes because of the separate legal issues.

“If the difference is whether or not the person was in the position of trust and public office then, obviously they will look at his case differently than they will hers,” Stone said. “Her legal theory is that she conspired with him to commit this fraud, offenses.”

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.