Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell was sentenced yesterday to two years in prison. The Washington Post called it an unexpectedly lenient punishment for a man who was convicted of selling the influence of his office to a wealthy benefactor for sweetheart loans, luxury vacations and a Rolex watch. Unless his conviction is overturned on appeal, the Republican McDonnell, who once was mentioned as a presidential contender, will become the first Virginia governor to go to prison.
Prosecutors had sought a 61/2-year prison term, and sentencing guidelines called for as many as eight years and one month. U.S. District Judge James Spencer's decision meant that McDonnell will be free before his 63rd birthday. Defense attorneys had asked for a sentence of 6,000 hours of community service. “Unlike Pontius Pilate, I can't wash my hands of it all,” Spencer said, after musing on the tragedy of the case. “A meaningful sentence must be imposed.” McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in September of public corruption. Maureen McDonnell will be sentenced Feb. 20.