VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Former Governor Bob McDonnell says he feels vindicated after prosecutors decided not to retry his corruption case.
In a one-on-one interview, he said he got a call last Thursday telling him the case is over, bringing him to tears. He'd been waiting more than three years to hear those words. "It was the words I've been waiting to hear for a very, very long time," he said.
McDonnell and his wife Maureen were found guilty of corruption in 2014. The US Supreme Court tossed out Bob McDonnell's conviction in June, saying the prosecution went too far in how it defined official acts.
McDonnell was accused of using his official role as governor to promote the company of a wealthy businessman. In exchange, prosecutors said he got thousands of dollars in gifts and loans. Prosecutors have decided not to retry the case, following the Supreme Court's ruling and have dropped the charges.
"I know in my heart I hadn't done anything wrong, so it took a lot of friends and a lot of faith and a lot of stamina to endure a six-week trial," McDonnell said. "When it finally got to the end and I knew that I was not going to be carrying the ball and chain for another day, it was a sense of release and joy."
The ordeal exposed some personal details of the McDonnells, including that their marriage is strained. "Unfortunately it came out as me throwing her under the bus or her having an inappropriate relationship with Mr. Williams. Neither one is true," he said. "It was an element of the defense we had to show to say there was no conspiracy." Their relationship today is friendly, "but there's still a struggle," according to McDonnell. The couple is focused on their grandchildren.
McDonnell says it'll likely take years to pay back all of his legal fees. His own cost about $10 million, he says. "This will be a lifelong venture paying back the lawyers for what they've done for me," he said.
As for what's next, McDonnell says he'd like to do more charitable work and is still watching politics. He's supporting Donald Trump and Mike Pence in November's election. "I'm just happy to be voting again," McDonnell said. He lost his right to vote following his conviction, but plans on registering soon.
He's also hoping to regain some of his reputation that was hurt during the trial and appeals. "I hope ultimately in the court of public opinion people will remember things my team did for the good of Virginia," he said.