Corruption case against former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife dropped

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Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell (2nd R) speaks to members of the media in front of the U.S. Supreme Court April 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard the corruption appeal from McDonnell, who and his wife were convicted of accepting more than $175,000 of gifts and favors from businessman Jonnie Williams, who wanted their help to promote his dietary supplement product called Anatabloc. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that they will not retry former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on public corruption charges, and will drop charges against his wife Maureen McDonnell.

McDonnell was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison. He remained free pending appeal, and this spring, the Supreme Court this year unanimously threw out his conviction.

In a motion filed with a federal appeals court, US Attorney Dana Boente said the United States planned to file a “motion to dismiss the indictment.”

McDonnell’s case centered around the question of what constitutes the scope of an “official action” under federal corruption law. He received gifts, money and loans from Jonnie R. Williams, the CEO of a Virginia-based company, in exchange for official acts seen as favorable to Williams and his business.

But writing for the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts set a clear definition of the term and how it can be used in corruption convictions.

“In sum, an ‘official act’ is a decision or action on a ‘question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy,” Roberts wrote. “Setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event (or agreeing to do so) — without more — does not fit that definition of an official act.”

Roberts also said that political corruption can still be prosecuted by the government, and noted that McDonnell’s actions were “distasteful.”

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that,” Roberts wrote. “But 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. A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this court.”

Lawyers for Maureen McDonnell said they were pleased with Thursday’s action.

“You can imagine, Maureen couldn’t be more thrilled or thankful that this is all over and she is very happy that the DOJ took such a careful look at the case and came to a decision that we of course agree with,” said William Burck from Quinn Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

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