Gov. Wilder testifies on behalf of Gov. McDonnell

Former Va. Gov. Doug Wilder testified to the character of Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday (Source: NBC12)
Former Va. Gov. Doug Wilder testified to the character of Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The final character witness in Gov. Bob McDonnell's federal sentencing hearing was another former Virginia governor, Doug Wilder.

The 83-year-old Democrat supported the convicted Republican governor saying he deserved leniency despite being found guilty on 11 counts of corruption by a jury in 2014. Gov. Wilder was the only witness questioned by both defense and prosecution and squarely placed the lion's share of the blame at the feet of former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, rather than the former governor.

Gov. McDonnell's defense team won a small victory earlier in the day when a judge lowered the sentencing guidelines against their client.

Judge Spencer revised the guidelines based on defense objections made shortly after court began at 10 a.m. McDonnell's lawyers argued the total of all gifts received by the former governor should be $69,000, down from $177,000. Spencer weighed the arguments and also removed an enhancement from an obstruction of justice charge, then lowered the guidelines from 10 to 12 years down to 78 to 97 months.

McDonnell arrived in a white SUV around 9 a.m., and said little as he walked into the courthouse, though he said he will have more to say after the sentencing hearing on the 11 corruption counts.

Hundreds of people wrote to Judge James R. Spencer on the former governor's behalf. Prosecutors are asking for ten to 12 years in prison, but his attorneys are lobbying for 6,000 hours of community service, which would take place over three years.

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Defense attorneys called Ret. Col. Gary Nelson as the first character witness. Col. Nelson was McDonnell's commander for five years and called him compassionate and merciful, saying :people are drawn to him because of his very persona."

William Horan of Operation Blessing International next took the stand to ask Spencer to "please have mercy" on the former Republican political star. He requested McDonnell go to Haiti and perform charitable work on the foundation's behalf instead of heading to prison.

The former governor's younger sister, Nancy, also took the stand, as did Speaker William Howell, NFL veteran Bruce Smith, Monseigneur Timothy Keeney, Radio One personality Clovia Lawrence, former Cabinet Secretary Terrie Suit, former Commonwealth Secretary Janet Kelly, head of Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Michael Zajur and law colleague Albert Poole.

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