By Evan Osnos

January 8, 2015

Bob McDonnell, the disgraced ex-governor of Virginia, appealed for the mercy of the court, and he received it. A former Presidential prospect with a career in state politics, McDonnell, along with his wife, Maureen, was convicted in September of trading the powers of his office for loans, shopping sprees, golf trips, a Rolex, and use of a Ferrari and a country home—a pattern that unfolded in the course of eleven months, netting his family a range of pleasures worth a hundred and seventy-seven thousand dollars, until federal prosecutors took notice.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for ten to twelve years. Michael Dry, an assistant United States attorney who prosecuted the case, called the series of abuses “unprecedented in Virginia’s two-hundred-and-twenty-six-year history,” and sought six and a half years. McDonnell’s defense attorneys asked for no prison time. They proposed instead six thousand hours of community service and in court presented eleven witnesses, including another former governor and an N.F.L. star, who argued for leniency.

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