Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party who was considered potential presidential material, has been indicted along with his wife on federal charges of accepting illegal gifts.
The 14-count indictment, culminating a lengthy investigation of their relationship with a Virginia business executive, alleges honest services fraud, false statements, obstruction.
Gifts valued at a minimum of $140,000 in total included designer clothes, a Rolex watch, golf clubs, iPhones and a painting, according to a list of items included in the indictment.
McDonnell, who in a statement denied any illegal conduct and called the charges federal government overreach, was elected in 2009 and left office earlier this month after serving one term, which is the limit in Virginia.
The federal probe involved the relationship between the governor and his wife, Maureen, with Jonnie Williams, the chief executive of a troubled nutritional supplement company, Star Scientific.
Authorities allege that Williams gave gifts and loans to the first family of Virginia, and that they promoted his company.
In his statement, McDonnell admitted to poor judgment.
“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility,” he said.
“However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship,” he added.
McDonnell added that he “never promised – and Mr. Williams and his company never received” any “government benefit” from him or his administration.
“We did not violate the law,” he said.
McDonnell’s successor, Terry McAuliffe, issued his own statement after the charges were filed.
“As this case progresses, it is my sincerest hope that justice will be served and that Virginians get the answers to which they are entitled,” he said. “As Governor, I will remain focused on leading this Commonwealth in a way that restores Virginians’ trust in government and honors their expectation of transparency and accountability.”