The judicial system’s foundation is justice. Justice has not been served for the state of Virginia following the events carried out earlier in the week. On Tuesday former Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison. Directly following the sentencing McDonnell addressed the press while his family and attorney stood behind him.
“I am a fallen human being. I’ve made mistakes in my life. I always try to put the best interest of the people first as governor. But I have failed at times in some of the judgments that I have made during the course of my governorship. I’ve hurt myself, my family and the people of Virginia and for that I am deeply, deeply sorry,” McDonnell said.
I expected McDonnell to come away with far less time even though I felt he deserved the heaviest punishment possible. I wouldn’t say that I expected the community service that many of the 400 letters requesting leniency asked Judge James R. Spencer for. I had at least pegged McDonnell to receive a short sentence of house arrest. If McDonnell’s appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals doesn’t result in a shorter sentence I will be even further surprised.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of selling the prestige of the governor’s office to Richmond businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for $177,000 in loans vacations and luxury goods. McDonnell should have received the 10-12 years as was recommended by federal authorities. Public servants must be held up to a much higher standard. We can’t allow figureheads like former Illinois state representative Keith Farnham to be the face of democracy and not hold him accountable for the maximum sentence that he deserves for collecting thousands of images of child pornography.
We can’t allow people like South Carolina’s former house speaker, Robert W. Harrell Jr., to use campaign funds illegally and allow him to get away with a suspended six-year prison sentence. We can’t allow McDonnell to get away with only two years in prison for selling the influence of the governor’s office. On the national scale this corruption will continue until someone is used as an example to show the powerful that they cannot get away with the crimes they commit just because the rest of the politicians are afraid they’ll end up in the same position. That’s what makes these crimes consistent, the fact that the appropriate prices are never paid by the corrupt.
The wrong people are serving time for crimes far less heinous. According to the Justice Policy Institute, in Virginia in 2012 over 38,000 people were arrested for drug charges. Approximately 62 percent of those charges were for marijuana alone. In 2014, the man who was responsible for either vetoing or passing bills into law for the state of Virginia was arrested for exchanging influence for nearly $200,000. How can a state be so focused on keeping up with the War on Drugs and let a man only spend two years in jail for corrupting the public office? We’re fighting the wrong things. We must fight corruption like a plague.
I can give no pity to a man who has had as much opportunity as McDonnell. Two years in prison is not serving Virginia appropriate justice. It’s barely compensation being served for McDonnell’s public office betrayal.