The Supreme Court unanimously overturned former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption conviction in a ruling making it harder to prosecute politicians accused of bribery. Former Gov. McDonnell was convicted of bribery in 2014 for accepting in excess of $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement.
While there is no question that Mr. McConnell received multiple payments and gifts from Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams, which was not illegal at the time under Virginia ethics laws, the Court ruled the jury was given faulty instructions about what constitutes bribery under federal law.
In 2014, a jury found him guilty of breaking a law that bars public officials from taking gifts in exchange for “official action” and the court sentenced him to two years in prison. However, Mr. McDonnell remained free while the high court considered his appeal.
Nevertheless, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the law cannot punish politicians for giving “constituents” access to public officials with a friendly ear, but don’t take action via government power. He basically ruled that meeting and talking to another official or organizing an event does not meet the definition of an official act under the law.