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Supreme Court of the United States
April 27, 2016, Argued; June 27, 2016, Decided
[*555] [**2361] Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 2014, the Federal Government indicted former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, on bribery charges. The charges related to the acceptance by the McDonnells of $175,000 in loans, gifts, and other benefits from Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams, while Governor McDonnell was in office. Williams was the chief executive officer of Star Scientific, a Virginia-based company that had developed a nutritional supplement made from [****11] anatabine, a compound found in tobacco. Star Scientific hoped that Virginia’s public universities would perform research studies on anatabine, and Williams wanted Governor McDonnell’s assistance in obtaining those studies.
To convict the McDonnells of bribery, the Government was required to show that Governor McDonnell committed (or agreed to commit) an “official act” in exchange for the loans and gifts. The parties did not agree, however, on what counts as an “official act.” The Government alleged in the indictment, and maintains on appeal, that Governor McDonnell committed at least five “official acts.” Those acts included “arranging meetings” for Williams with other Virginia officials to discuss Star Scientific’s product, “hosting” events for Star Scientific at the Governor’s Mansion, and “contacting other government officials” concerning studies of [*556] anatabine. Supp. App. 47-48. The Government also argued more broadly that these activities constituted “official action” because they related to Virginia business development, a priority of Governor McDonnell’s administration. Governor McDonnell contends that merely setting up a meeting, hosting an event, or contacting an official — without [****12] more — does not count as an “official act.”
At trial, the District Court instructed the jury according to the Government’s broad understanding of what constitutes an “official act,” and the jury convicted both Governor and Mrs. McDonnell on the bribery charges. The Fourth Circuit affirmed Governor McDonnell’s conviction, and we granted review to clarify the meaning of “official act.”
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
579 U.S. 550 *; 136 S. Ct. 2355 **; 195 L. Ed. 2d 639 ***; 2016 U.S. LEXIS 4062 ****; 84 U.S.L.W. 4565; 26 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 345
ROBERT F. McDONNELL, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
United States v. McDonnell, 792 F.3d 478, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 11889 (4th Cir. Va., July 10, 2015)
Disposition: 792 F. 3d 478, vacated and remanded.
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Criminal Law & Procedure, Abuse of Public Office, Illegal Gratuities, Elements, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Criminal Offenses, Illegal Gratuities, State & Territorial Governments, Employees & Officials, Legislatures, Vagueness