Legal expert weighs in on what's next for McDonnell - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Legal expert weighs in on what's next for McDonnell

Former Virginia Gov. McDonnell exits the Supreme Court after a hearing on his corruption conviction. (Source: NBC12) Former Virginia Gov. McDonnell exits the Supreme Court after a hearing on his corruption conviction. (Source: NBC12)
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Despite how Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing appeared, one former federal and state prosecutor cautions that it's too early to call it a win for McDonnell.

Chuck James says, as a prosecutor, he tried not to read too much into questions from the bench. He did say this decision from the Supreme Court could set an unparalleled precedent.

“If I’m Governor McDonnell and his legal team, I feel better about my chance today than perhaps I did before the argument,” explains James, a partner with the Williams Mullen law firm in Richmond.

He wasn't in Washington, D.C. for the Supreme Court case Wednesday, but he's carefully watched the groundbreaking events unfold.

“Obviously, as a Virginian, I’m keenly interested in what happens to Governor McDonnell," James said. "As a practitioner, I’m someone who really likes bright lines."

"For me to be able to advise my clients on what is or is not criminal activity, having a clear, objective standard by which they can measure themselves will be helpful,” he continued.

James said, in simple terms, the question is whether Governor Bob McDonnell's actions were standard fare for elected officials or if he crossed the line into public corruption.

Many worried the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would affect the court's view.

During Wednesday's hearing, that didn't seem to be the case. 

“What we saw today was, without regard to political affiliation or ideology, the justices really did take issue with the government's position, and raise separation of issues concerns, broad or vague standards concerns, and it certainly bodes well for Governor McDonnell going forward,” James explains.

James continued by saying that a number of things could happen from here, such as the decision could be thrown out, there could be a new trial or the justices could affirm the sentence and McDonnell be forced to go to prison.

That decision will be known by June.

As for Bob's wife Maureen, her appeal has been put on hold. While James isn’t involved in her case, he says Maureen's defense team will most likely take cues from what happens in the former governor's case at the Supreme Court.

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