Cases & Deals

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell's corruption convictions unanimously vacated by Supreme Court and DOJ later drops case

Client(s) Former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell

In a decisive victory for Jones Day client and former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, the Supreme Court unanimously vacated Governor McDonnell's convictions for public corruption offenses, rejecting the Department of Justice's legal theory and holding that the instructions given to the jury were erroneously overbroad. It therefore vacated those convictions in June 2016. In response, in September 2016, the DOJ announced that it would dismiss its public corruption case against Governor McDonnell.

The Court's decision represented the culmination of nearly three years of litigation, much of which took place in the Supreme Court. In particular, following the Fourth Circuit's affirmance of Governor McDonnell's corruption convictions, Jones Day obtained a stay of that decision from the Supreme Court so that Governor McDonnell could remain free on bail pending Supreme Court review—the first decision the Supreme Court has issued in several decades allowing a defendant to remain free on bail. After that, Governor McDonnell obtained certiorari on the question of what constitutes "official action" under the corruption laws and the Supreme Court unanimously vacated his convictions.

The Court's opinion vindicated the position Governor McDonnell has taken since the very beginning of this case—that Governor McDonnell never promised or took any official actions and that he thus never violated the federal corruption laws. The Supreme Court's opinion embraced this point and unanimously adopted Governor McDonnell's legal theory.

In response, the DOJ recently announced that it would dismiss its case against Governor McDonnell with prejudice. As a result, Governor McDonnell no longer faces any threat of prosecution for the conduct at issue, and is now free to begin the work of rebuilding his life and reputation.

McDonnell v. United States, No. 15-474 slip op. (June 27, 2016)