Unanimous 4th Circuit Panel Rejects Former Va Gov. McDonnell’s Corruption Appeal

You can read the 89-page-opinion at this link. 

A key question on appeal is whether the trial court defined “official act” too broadly for federal bribery law purposes. The 4th Circuit has an extensive discussion of the issue, concluding: “In view of these precedents, we are satisfied that the reach of § 201(a)(3) is broad enough to encompass the customary and settled practices of an office, but only insofar as a purpose or effect of those practices is to influence a ‘question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy’  that may be brought before the government.”

The court found there was sufficient evidence of official acts under this definition to satisfy the bribery statute.

The appeals court also agreed the trial court correctly refused to instruct the jury, under Citizens United, that seeking “ingratiation and access”  are not corruption.

The court also rejected an argument related to the phrasing of the quid pro quo requirement.

Finally, the court found that there was sufficient evidence of both official acts and quids pro quo to justify a conviction:

This evidence established that Appellant received money, loans, favors, and gifts from Williams in exchange for official acts to help Williams secure independent testing of Anatabloc. In light of the foregoing, the jury could readily infer that there were multiple quid pro quo payments, and that Appellant acted in the absence of good faith and with the necessary corrupt intent.

As noted in this Washington Post article, McDonnell could seek either en banc 4th Circuit review or file a petition for cert. in the Supreme Court. My quick perusal of the opinion leads me to think that getting further review in either venue will be a hard slog. There appears to be both enough legal authority and evidence to support the government’s case at this point.

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