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Richmond, Va. - A federal jury on Thursday found former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of public corruption - sending an emphatic message that they believed the couple sold the office once occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson to a free-spending Richmond businessman for golf outings, lavish vacations and $120,000 in sweetheart loans.
After three days of deliberations, the seven men and five women who heard weeks of gripping testimony about the McDonnells' alleged misdeeds unanimously found that the couple conspired to lend the prestige of the governor's office to Jonnie Williams Sr. in a nefarious exchange for his largesse.
The verdict means that Robert McDonnell, the first governor in Virginia history to be charged with a crime, now holds an even more unwanted distinction - the first to be convicted of one.
He and his wife face decades in federal prison, although their actual sentences will likely fall well short of that. U.S. District Judge James Spencer set a sentencing hearing for Jan. 6.
The former governor, a onetime Republican rising star considered for the 2012 vice presidential nomination, was convicted of all 11 corruption-related counts brought against him. In a small victory, he was acquitted of lying on loan documents.
The former first lady was convicted of eight corruption-related charges and an additional count of obstruction of justice. She, too, was acquitted of falsifying a bank record.
The verdict was read aloud in front of a courtroom packed with reporters and supporters of the former first couple. When the clerk announced that the former governor had been found "guilty" of the first of 14 counts the couple faced, Robert McDonnell, 60, closed his eyes tightly, shaking in his seat as he began to weep.
Maureen McDonnell, 60, also started to cry. At the eighth guilty count, her husband buried his face in his hands. By the end, he was slumped in his chair, still crying. Two of the couple's daughters, seated behind them, sobbed - the cries from one punctuating each guilty verdict was read aloud.
It was a stunning outcome for the couple, all the more so because in December, McDonnell declined to accept a plea agreement in which he would have been found guilty of just one felony count of lying on a loan document, according to people familiar with the case. Maureen McDonnell would have faced no charges.
The jury's verdict brings to a close a trial that seemed to grip the nation since it began in July with defense attorney's shocking revelation that the McDonnells' marriage was shattered, and that would be a core element of their attempt to beat the charges.
The proceedings over the next five weeks resembled a soap opera at times, as the McDonnells endured a humiliating dissection of their relationship amid unflattering allegations about the lavish lifestyle supplied by Williams. Attorneys for both said they plan to appeal.
Defense attorney Henry "Hank" Asbill, saying he "didn't expect" this outcome, assured reporters that the former governor would appeal. "I'm obviously very disappointed," he said.
William Burck, an attorney for Maureen McDonnell, said the former first lady, too, would appeal.