Speaker Howell reacts to McDonnell verdict, stands by his friend

Bob McDonnellBy Lynn R. Mitchell

One of the character witnesses at Tuesday’s sentencing trial for former Governor Bob McDonnell was Virginia House of Representatives Speaker Bill Howell who stood up for his friend and fellow Republican. Washington Post reporter Matthew Zapotosky, who was in the courthouse in Richmond, noted the Speaker’s defense of McDonnell:

Speaker of the Virginia House William J. Howell (R-Stafford) has told Judge James Spencer that the trial and conviction of former governor Bob McDonnell has already served as a significant deterrent to other state lawmakers who might be tempted to break the law.

He said both caucuses of both chambers of the legislature have had “people” (FBI agents, presumably) brief them on the trial’s lessons. As a result, he said, legislators were especially concerned to “dot all their i’s and cross all their t’s.”

He noted that the legislature has already enhanced state ethics laws as a result of McDonnell’s actions and is likely to  stiffen those laws when the annual legislative session opens next week.

What’s more, Howell, McDonnell’s friend of  20 years, said the former governor’s life has already been “devastated” by his conviction. He recalled the Bible study he and McDonnell held with other lawmakers every Wednesday and said that as a lawmaker and state office holder, McDonnell respected those with other points of view and tried to do the right thing.

“The damage to his dreams and his aspirations has been done,” Howell said. “I believe he’s been punished enough.”

Shortly after the sentence was announced, Howell released the following:

“I have known Bob McDonnell for a long time and consider him a close friend. I am heartbroken by the pain he and his family have suffered and by what this means for Virginia. Cessie and I offer our sincerest prayers for the McDonnell family during this difficult time.”

McDonnell received a sentence of two years in federal prison with another two years of supervision and $1,100 fee.

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