Under law signed by McDonnell, convicted felons lose pensions

Posted at 1:06 AM, Sep 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-05 01:42:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The  verdicts in the federal corruption case against former state governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen could bring each decades in prison, though many say that is unlikely.

It was a historic day in the Commonwealth as the state's 71st governor became the first to be convicted on felony charges. He joins just a handful of state governors to be convicted on felony charges, not all whom were incarcerated.

With the couples' crimes being non-violent, with no prior record, and neither seen as a flight risk, they will return to federal court for sentencing on Jan. 6.

Throughout the trial, McDonnell and his wife arrived and left the courthouse separately in a display at the heart of their defense. Now they have a handful of holidays to share with their family before sentencing with federal judge Judge James Spencer.

Maureen has been staying in their Glen Allen home, separate from Bob, who has been staying with the family priest. It is not clear if the couple will return to the home now that the trial is over, but friends and family were gathered there the night the jury reached a verdict.

A family friend said the McDonnells have  received an “outpouring of support from well-wishers,” many of them who visited the house  after the verdict was read. The man added that family and friends of Bob and Maureen feel a lot of “sadness,” but they’re very appreciative for the support.

Former U.S. Attorney Chuck James says there is a possibility the couple may not wind up behind bars, though that is highly unlikely. Over the next few months the Bureau of Prisons well assess the couple and make their suggestions to the judge ahead of the sentencing date.

Neither individual has a prior criminal history, and will likely be designated for a  lowest security facility.

Lawyers for both McDonnells indicate they will appeal. Both Maureen and Bob entered not guilty pleas. Bob previously turned down a plea deal to accept one felony charge, with no criminal charges made against his wife.

Legal analyst Todd Stone said that Maureen is in a better position because she did not get on the stand, and she was not a public official.

While the couple may manage to avoid embarrassing headlines for the next four months, there could still be plenty of humiliation left ahead for the couple.

McDonnell will have his license to practice law removed once the Virginia State Bar receives notice of his felony convictions.

There is also chance that he could lose his pension, due to a law he signed into effect in 2011. The legislation states that retirement benefits are forfeited upon certain felony convictions.

This means that McDonnell could lose the pensions he earned while serving as an Army Reserves lieutenant colonel, Virginia Attorney General, and as a lawmaker in the House of Delegates.

Ironically when McDonnell served as governor, he restored the voting and other civil rights to more than 6,800 non-violent felons.