McDonnell character witnesses plead for leniency

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hundreds of letters from supporters were written on former Gov. Bob McDonnell's behalf. Taking the stand at the federal courthouse on Tuesday, ten character witnesses played a vital role in McDonnell's defense.

For many of these people, they have known McDonnell for years. While coming out of the courthouse, the people who spoke to NBC12 had to regain their composure before talking.

For those who were called as a character witness for McDonnell, 24 months in prison comes with mixed reaction. "I believe with all my being that he would not intentionally do that, but I'm glad it's 24 months and not what the prosecutors were asking for," said Michael Zajur, the CEO for the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

On the subject of the former first lady's upcoming sentencing in February, Zajur said, "I think the family has suffered so much and they will have to relive this everyday for the rest of their lives. Where do you measure justice."

Radio personality Clovia Lawrence was also a character witness. "The 24 months? Actually the family was thinking it was going to be more. So Judge Spencer, I just want to credit with his opening statements, he was wonderful, he was powerful, he did a great job," she said.

Former Gov. Doug Wilder was what many called the best witness to stick up for McDonnell. He drew applause in court when asked by the lead prosecutor if he would ever accept a Rolex. Wilder responded that he would have bought it himself. He was the only witness to be questioned by both sides.

Other character witnesses included a retired colonel who was McDonnell's commanding officer, a former law colleague, and Virginia's former Secretary of the Commonwealth.

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