Robert McDonnell

Decision Makes It Harder to Prosecute Corruption

“The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to vacate former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s public corruption conviction will significantly limit prosecutors’ ability to bring cases against politicians suspected of malfeasance and could spell trouble for the Justice Department in ongoing, high-profile cases,” the Washington Post reports.

“The ruling, which narrows what constitutes criminal corruption, will be an immediate boon for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who is awaiting an appeals court ruling in a corruption case, experts said. Lawyers for former New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver (D) said the ruling also will be central to their client’s bid to overturn his conviction.”

McDonnell Conviction Thrown Out

The Supreme Court vacated the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) in a unanimous decision, the New York Times reports.

McDonnell “was charged with using his office to help Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who had provided the McDonnells with luxury products, loans and vacations worth more than $175,000 when Mr. McDonnell was governor. The gifts themselves were legal, and the question in the case was whether they were part of a corrupt bargain in which Mr. McDonnell reciprocated by using the power of his office to help Mr. Williams.”

Rick Hasen: “The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling throwing out the conviction of Gov. McDonnell (while leaving open the possibility of a retrial on a narrower theory of the case) is sensible and courageous, and shows the continuing important influence of Justice Scalia in this area of the law. It is hard to write an opinion letting off the hook someone whose actions were as odious as Gov. McDonnell, in taking rolexes, funding for his daughter’s wedding and more from someone who wanted the governor’s assistance in marketing the equivalent of snake oil. But it was the right thing to do.”