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The Agonizing Minutes

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family absorb the verdict.



The jury in the federal corruption trial against Bob and Maureen McDonnell sent word that it had reached a verdict. Within half an hour the courtroom on the seventh floor of the federal courthouse downtown is at capacity and buzzing with reporters.

At 2:50, the former governor breezes in with his lips pursed. The courtroom goes quiet. It will stay that way until the proceedings end.

Maureen McDonnell enters a few minutes later, trailed by two of her daughters. She has a blank look on her face.

By 2:55, Judge James R. Spencer is at the bench. “All right,” he says, “I understand the jury has concluded its deliberations. Let’s bring the jury in.”

Bob McDonnell looks down with his hands clasped while the men and women file into the courthouse. His wife stares straight ahead, her expression blocked from the gallery’s view by her long, gray hair.

The foreman of the jury, a middle-aged white man in a pastel shirt, hands the verdict up to the judge. Spencer reviews it for several minutes. He hands it to his clerk, who reads:

Count one, she says. Bob McDonnell: Guilty. Maureen McDonnell: Guilty. Six reporters tear out of the room to report the news.

It goes on like that. By count three, Bob McDonnell is visibly crying.

Weeping erupts from the McDonnell family, seated in the first two rows of the courtroom, while each subsequent guilty finding is read.

By count eight, Bob McDonnell is holding his head in his hands. In the gallery, the priest with whom he’s been living is embracing a family member who appears to have lost control.

Count 11: Bob McDonnell: Guilty. “God,” cries a family member.

As the final and 14th count is read, nearly every remaining reporter in the room rushes out. Bob McDonnell has been found guilty on 11 corruption counts, Maureen McDonnell on nine.

The defense team indicates it would like the jury polled. While each is called by name to affirm the verdict, Bob McDonnell cries into his hands, shaking gently. He seems to be suppressing whimpers. 

When McDonnell is called to stand up when the jury is excused, he holds his head as far down as his chin will allow.

The judge sets a sentencing date of Jan. 6, and informs the couple that the court’s probation department will be in touch for a pre-sentence report.

It’s 3:09. His face is a deep red.

The couple exits the courthouse separately. The jury is given time to leave out the back door, away from the crush of reporters that wait in front.

While exiting the courthouse into a bright, September sun, McDonnell is surrounded by what feels like hundreds of cameras. His wife leaves separately.

He looks stunned. He says only, “All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord.”

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