Prosecutors said former Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell should receive a prison sentence of 18 months for her historic corruption convictions, a recommendation falling on the lower end of federal guidelines.
Defense counsel argued in documents released late Friday that Mrs. McDonnell should be sentenced to a term of probation and 4,000 hours of community service. If a prison sentence is handed down, the former first lady requested to serve a split term.
The sentence would be split between prison first, and then home confinement. The defense's sentencing memo can be read here.
The government forcefully outlined arguments for incarceration, asserting that avoiding prison should not be an option.
"Because Mrs. McDonnell was a full participant in a bribery scheme that sold the Governor's office in exchange for luxury goods and sweetheart loans, many of which she solicited personally, and because she repeatedly attempted to thwart the investigation through false representations, it would be unjust for her not to serve a period of incarceration for her crimes," federal prosecutors said.
"As such, the United States respectfully asks this Court to sentence Mrs. McDonnell to a term of imprisonment of 18 months, which would represent the same approximately 70% downward variance from the low end of the Guidelines that her husband received."
U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer sentenced former Governor Robert F. McDonnell to 24 months in prison Jan. 6, a sentence that is now being appealed.
Prosecutors indicated the former first lady's sentence should be similar in length to her husband's, "avoiding unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants... who have been found guilty of similar conduct."
"The government's recommendation of 18 months, in light of the higher advisory range, is a clear indication the prosecutors took Judge Spencer's sentencing of Bob McDonnell to heart," said former federal prosecutor Charles E. “Chuck” James Jr., now a defense attorney with Williams Mullen.
"This bodes well for Maureen McDonnell as the Court may be loathe to exceed the government's recommendation and could still go below."
But prosecutors continued to press for prison time, saying Mrs. McDonnell has shown no remorse, and was complicit in the acceptance of $177,000 in gifts and loans.
"Of particular note is the degree to which the defendant unhesitatingly participated in the scheme to sell the Governor's office to satisfy her desire for a luxurious lifestyle," the prosecution said.
"For example, even though it was Mr. McDonnell who sold his office, Mrs. McDonnell benefited from the bribery scheme by personally receiving a $19,289.28 shopping spree and by participating in multiple expensive dinners and vacations... As she did so, she was at times 'exuberant.'"
Maureen McDonnell's defense team also filed a motion to grant her freedom, pending the conclusion of a future appeal.
"Mrs. McDonnell respectfully requests release pending appeal because she poses no risk of flight or danger to the community, because her appeal is not for the purpose of delay, and because her appeal raises substantial questions of law that are likely to result in reversal or an order for a new trial," wrote the defense.
Mrs. McDonnell's counsel suggested a community service sentence could be served with an organization such as Mary's Shelter. The group runs a transition home in Fredericksburg for pregnant mothers who would otherwise be homeless.
Mrs. McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20, in Richmond's federal courthouse.