The former governor of Virginia, who was convicted earlier this month of public corruption, worked up the deluded courage to ask a judge to acquit him or be granted a new trial.
McDonnell argued that “the guilty verdicts stemmed from ‘insufficient evidence’ and ‘numerous legal errors during the proceedings,'” writes Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post.
One of the core legal issues here is how our society defines corruption. The law McDonnell was accused of breaking was conducting “official acts” in his capacity as governor to aide the interests of Jonnie R. Williams, a Richmond businessman. In exchange, McDonnell was given “$177,000 in gifts, vacations and sweetheart loans.”
Whether McDonnell performed an official act for Williams, experts have said, is likely to be a major thrust of the former governor’s appeal. Defense attorneys argued that the very laws on which the McDonnells were convicted were unconstitutionally vague, especially with regard to how prosecutors used them to define “official acts.”
McDonnell wants the judge–and the rest of us–to take a very narrow view of “official acts” so that the only instance of illegal corruption would be when a politician agrees to a quid-pro-quo: taking a bribe and explicitly promising to use the power of public office for a benefactor. McDonnell’s defense team would only concede that he (merely) arranged some meetings for Williams and that no specific favor for Williams was tied to a specific gift or vacation.