The Supreme Court’s decision to send the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell back to trial was legally correct, even if it may mean the disgraced governor ultimately gets away with his unseemly behavior while in the Virginia executive role.
The case turns on whether prosecutors reached too far to accuse McDonnell of federal corruption charges when his acceptance of gifts did not violate Virginia law. At trial, prosecutors made the case that McDonnell accepted gifts in exchange for government actions, thus making the gifts bribes.
From Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion:
“Setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event does not, standing alone, qualify as an ‘official act.’”
Roberts also wrote: “Our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.”
While McDonnell is celebrating, I hope that prosecutors are ready for a retrial based on the Supreme Court’s stricter instructions.
More on the ruling and the underlying case is in the Washington Post.