All too often, media coverage of federal criminal charges is focused only on the initial stages of the legal process. That leaves the public unaware of how all but the most high profile cases are resolved. It also results in tarnishing the names of individuals who are accused of federal crimes, only to have those accusations later withdrawn. An example is found in the recent decision to drop all federal charges against Bob McDonnell, former governor of Virginia.
In 2014, McDonnell was convicted of helping a donor get past various aspects of state bureaucracy. McDonnell and his wife received a substantial volume of gifts while he served as governor, but none of those gifts were deemed illegal. Instead, the case focused on whether or not McDonald’s ties with the CEO of a vitamin supplement company could be construed as a quid pro quo relationship.
McDonnell and his wife were accused of connecting the CEO with state officials who had the power to influence federal approval for a product developed by the CEO’s company. At the time of his conviction, McDonnell and his legal team asserted that he was innocent of all charges. After the Supreme Court examined the case, it found that McDonald’s actions could not be defined as criminal acts, and were instead simple favors.
This outcome means that McDonald’s legal troubles have come to an end. While it is possible that prosecutors could push forward with a new trial, that outcome is unlikely. Media coverage of the fact that federal crimes charges were dropped in this matter is due to McDonnell’s status as the former governor of Virginia. Unfortunately, many people who are accused of federal crimes only to have those charges later dropped will never receive sufficient media coverage to clear their names.
Source: USA Today, “Prosecutors will drop charges against ex-Virginia governor McDonnell“, Richard Wolf, Sept. 8, 2016