The risk McDonnell’s defense team could make asking for community service

Posted at 12:07 AM, Dec 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-24 01:19:47-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- While prosecutors want  Bob McDonnell to spend over 10 years behind bars the former governor's lawyers want him to service his time doing community service.

But both of those requests may be unprecedented.

In a 50-page sentencing memorandum, the defense paints a favorable portrait of Virginia's 71st governor. It said Bob McDonnell was a public servant for 38 years who showed compassion as a former prosecutor and governor.

Now McDonnell's attorneys are asking a judge to show that same compassion by sentencing the former governor to 6,000 hours of rigorous community service instead of jail time.

They said it's a just and fair sentence for a politician who accepted gifts and loans, but never acted outside of Virginia's own ethics laws.

The defense wrote "no public official has ever before been convicted of federal or state corruption charges on the basis of similar conduct."

"I think where the defense's strongest position here is to suggest that there is no evidence that Bob McDonnell throughout his career was an inherently corrupt political figure," said CBS 6 political analyst Bob Holsworth.

The defense also argues the government's recommended sentence of 10 years or more is outside the scope of sentences handed down in other corruption cases, including those of U.S. Representatives Richard Renzi and Bob Ney and former state delegate Phil Hamilton.

Hamilton received a sentence far below guidelines after procuring $500,000 for a state university in exchange for employment.

Unlike those cases, McDonnell's attorneys argue the former governor never gave any state appointments or funds, or supported legislation in exchange for the gifts he received.

"However, to the extent the defense continues to suggest that Bob McDonnell didn't do much that was wrong -- that I think is not only going to anger the prosecution in the rebuttal,  but it certainly runs the risk... of suggesting to the judge that Bob McDonnell still doesn't have much contrition for what he was convicted of,"  Holsworth said.

McDonnell will be sentenced on Jan. 6