By Sean CW Korsgaard
Capital News Service
Prominent Henrico County residents wrote letters attesting to former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s character and integrity and urging a federal judge to show leniency in sentencing him for public corruption.
Senior U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer, who was scheduled to sentence McDonnell on Tuesday, received 443 letters from across the country on McDonnell’s behalf, including several from Henrico.
The letter writers included Patricia O’Bannon, who chairs the Henrico County Board of Supervisors. In a letter to Judge Spencer dated Oct. 13, O’Bannon said she and McDonnell had a long working relationship, and she commended his willingness to help his constituents.
“Even from the years before his term as Governor, Mr. McDonnell was always available to local officials, to give us advice and help with our local concerns.” O’Bannon wrote. “His advice was always given with an even hand and the strength of knowledge.”
Despite disappointment over McDonnell’s actions during the corruption scandal that would eventually see him charged and convicted last year, O’Bannon had nothing but praise for the former governor.
“In the past, not all Governors made themselves available to local government officials, nor listened to their concerns.” O’Bannon stated. “Once he became Governor, Mr. McDonnell helped with our local families and kept his promises. I have only admiration for his work for Virginia’s residents.”
Her husband, Delegate John M. O’Bannon III, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 73rd District in Henrico, sent a letter to the judge as well. Delegate O’Bannon has been a longtime defender of McDonnell, contributing $1,000 to his legal defense fund.
“I have personally watched how hard he worked for Veterans and Veteran’s issues in Virginia,” Delegate O’Bannon wrote. “We worked together to make Virginia a safer place from natural and man-made disasters on the Secure Commonwealth Panel. He worked hard to make Higher Education more affordable and accessible to our students.”
It’s reminders of those charitable works and worthy causes, as well as statements to his character, that McDonnell’s attorneys hoped might sway Spencer into giving the former governor a reduced sentence.
McDonnell’s lawyers asked that he be spared prison and be required instead to do 6,000 hours of community service. Many of the letters came from Catholic charities, veterans groups and anti-poverty programs hoping McDonnell might work with them in such a scenario.
Prosecutors wanted Spencer to sentence McDonnell to 10-12 years in prison.
One of the voices calling for a reduced sentence for McDonnell was Henry W. Stanley, who served as Henrico chief of police until his retirement in April 2011.
“This is the first time in my forty-eight year law enforcement career that I have written a letter requesting leniency for anyone,” Stanley stated. “I gave much thought to whether or not I should write such a letter to you, and in the end, felt compelled to share my experiences and observations of the McDonnell’s.”
In his letter to the judge, Stanley described McDonnell as “dedicated and sincere about public service” and lamented the fate of the former governor and his wife Maureen, who will be sentenced Feb. 20.
“When all is written and spoken, both have lost much of their accomplishments in life and possibly each other.” Stanley stated. “The road to recovery is going to be difficult for both, if not impossible.”
The McDonnell family has owned a house in Henrico County since Bob McDonnell was elected attorney general in 2005.
This article was published by the Henrico Citizen.