The Supreme Court has overturned former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption conviction in a unanimous ruling.
McDonnell, a Republican who served as Virginia’s governor from 2010 until 2014, was convicted of 11 counts of corruption in September 2014 and later sentenced to two years in jail; he’s remained free during the appeals process. Prosecutors said McDonnell did favors for a Virginia businessman named Jonnie Williams, who was trying to use his connection to McDonnell to help launch a dietary supplement company, in return for various luxury gifts. McDonnell’s appeal revolved around the idea that he had not actually taken or compelled any “official action” on Williams’ behalf but merely made the kind of suggestions and introductions that all elected officials engage in.
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, who reported on oral arguments in McDonell’s case in April, called the former governor’s strategy the “everybody does it” defense. “Maybe the line between money and influence is too fuzzy and ubiquitous to even be said in words anymore,” wrote Lithwick at the time.