Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were charged with 14 counts of fraud, conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction in connection with accepting gifts from a wealthy businessman allegedly seeking favors from the governor's office.
The one-time, rising Republican star and his wife, Maureen, were charged by federal authorities Tuesday with accepting gifts and trading on the prestige of the governor's office to aid a major campaign contributor -- dietary supplement executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
In a Tuesday night press conference, McDonnell denied the charges and said that prosecutors "stretched the law to its breaking point" in bringing them.
"I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal friendship and his generosity," said McDonnell.
Vowing to fight the charges with "every available resource," McDonell said that his actions were no different than that of his predecessors in the governor's mansion.
The charges were the culmination of a scandal that torpedoed McDonnell's final months in office, overshadowing bipartisan achievements throughout his term in Richmond.
The indictment claims that McDonnell and his wife accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of vacations, trips and direct payments intended to procure aid for Williams' business.
“The defendants participated in a scheme to use Robert McDonnell's official position as governor of Virginia to enrich the defendants and their family members by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, gifts and other things of value … in exchange for Robert McDonnell and [his office] performing official actions on an as-needed basis,” the indictment reads.
If convicted, the McDonnells could spend decades behind bars. However, legal analysts say the former first couple of Virginia would likely face a more lenient prison sentence.
In an earlier statement, McDonnell, who recently left the governor's mansion at the end of his term, apologized for his conduct.
“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. “I never promised – and Mr. Williams and his company never received – any government benefit of any kind from me or my administration.”
Rumors of a possible indictment for months followed McDonnell, whose squeaky-clean image and pragmatic politics once made him one of Virginia’s most popular politicians.
This story was published at 4:22 p.m. and has been updated. Additional reporting was contributed by the Associated Press.
See the full indictment below.