RICHMOND (WRIC)—Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, could face felony charges in connection with a gift scandal, but not anytime soon.
According to the Washington Post, prosecutors announced last week that they plan to formally charge the governor and first lady of Virginia, but that those charges would not be handed down until after the New Year. These felony charges come after prosecutors say McDonnell and his wife both illegally promoted dietary supplement company Star Scientific in exchange for gifts and loans from CEO Jonnie Williams, a close friend of the governor.
After several months of investigating, federal prosecutors found Virginia's first family received more than $150,000 in gifts and loans in exchange for parties at the Governor's Mansion and arranging meetings between Star Scientific and state officials.
"It's not unusual for the Justice Department to say, yeah we will delay some charges,'" says political analyst Richard Meagher. "It would be very unusual for the Justice Department to overrule the decisions of one of their attorneys to press charges."
Meagher says a sitting Virginia Governor has never been indicted on criminal charges.
"Now this is a big deal for Governor McDonnell because he does not want to be the first sitting Governor in Virginia history to be indicted on any kind of federal charges."
Meagher says he believes the Justice Department allowed the charges to be delayed to allow for Governor Elect Terry McAuliffe to have a smooth transition.
"I think what was the most compelling argument for the feds was that Governor McAuliffe, who has nothing to do with Star Scientific Issue deserves a smooth transitions into the new government."
Earlier this month Governor McDonnell Told 8News he doesn't think he has broken any laws.
"I've been through some tough times, there have been different interpretations of the laws. I think I have fully complied with the laws. People who have done independent audits have said that."
The Washington Post article says a final decision about whether to press charges is now not expected before Jan. 2 and could come as late as February.
Virginia law makers say come the 2014 General Assembly gift giving laws need to be amended.
State Senator Donald McEachin "I think absolutely what you will see this next General Assembly Session is a bipartisan effort to enhance, amplify and strengthen our ethics laws."
It is important to note the Justice Department does have the ability to dismiss the charges all together.
But political experts say if a US Attorney feels they have enough evidence to indict anyone it is unlikely the Justice Department would dismiss the charges.
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