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From Statehouse To Big House: A Guide To Governors Gone Bad

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (center) is mobbed by media as he gets into a car with his son, Bobby (right), after he and his wife, former first lady Maureen McDonnell, were convicted of multiple counts of corruption Thursday in Richmond.
Steve Helber
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (center) is mobbed by media as he gets into a car with his son, Bobby (right), after he and his wife, former first lady Maureen McDonnell, were convicted of multiple counts of corruption Thursday in Richmond.

Now that Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell has been found guilty of corruption, fraud and bribery, his name could be added to a long list of top state officials who have had to take the walk from the statehouse to the big house.

McDonnell wept as the guilty verdicts were read. The lifestyle he grew accustomed to as governor — which included a luxury vacation in Cape Cod worth more than $7,000 — is about as far as you can get from where he could be headed next. The conviction Thursday could mean decades in federal prison for him and his wife, Maureen; they are expected be sentenced in January 2015.

Here's a list of other recent governors convicted of crimes committed while in office:


Rod Blagojevich, Democrat of Illinois

Blagojevich was found guilty in 2011 of attempting to sell President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. He was convicted of 17 of 24 federal charges against him and is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence.

Edward DiPrete, Republican of Rhode Island

DiPrete was indicted in 1994, accused of taking close to $300,000 in bribes from contractors in exchange for state contracts. He pleaded guilty to 18 counts of corruption — including bribery and extortion — in 1998, before trial, in exchange for leniency for his son, who was also accused. DiPrete served one year in prison.

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards
Travis Spradling / AP
Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards

Edwin Edwards, Democrat of Louisiana

Edwards was convicted in 2000 of extorting nearly $3 million from companies that applied for casino licenses. The four-term governor, 72 years old at the time, received a 10-year sentence. He is currently out of prison and running for Congress.

Arch Moore Jr., Republican of West Virginia

Charges against Moore stemmed from a nearly $600,000 payment he extorted from a coal operator in return for a refund of millions from the state's black lung fund for miners. He was also charged with filing false tax returns, and in connection with a vote-buying scheme. Moore received a prison sentence of just under six years and a $170,000 fine.

John Rowland, Republican of Connecticut

Rowland served 10 months in prison after he admitted in 2005 to illegally taking trips and vacations to Las Vegas, Vermont and Florida and getting improvements to his lake cabin. He is currently facing federal conspiracy charges in an unrelated case.

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan
M. Spencer Green / AP
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan

George Ryan, Republican of Illinois

In 2006, Ryan was convicted of racketeering, mail fraud and tax fraud — largely related to selling government licenses and contracts as a public official. Ryan was released from prison in 2014 after serving five years. Four of the past seven governors of Illinois, including Ryan, have gone to prison.


Mike Easley, Democrat of North Carolina

Easley's attorneys reached a plea deal in 2010. Prosecutors dropped additional charges when he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws. A federal probe found that the two-term governor took advantage of free flights, cars and vacations, questionable real estate deals, and that he created a job for his wife at a state university. He had faced up to 15 months in prison, but prosecutors agreed to no jail time and a $1,000 fine plus court costs.

Guy Hunt, Republican of Alabama

In 1993, Hunt was convicted of using $200,000 from a tax-exempt fund for his own inauguration and violating state ethics laws. He got five years' probation, was ordered to pay a $211,000 fine and eventually received a state pardon in 1998.

Former South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow
Doug Dreyer / AP
Former South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow

Bill Janklow, Republican of South Dakota

In 2003, not long after his election to Congress, Janklow was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for crashing into and killing a motorcyclist in South Dakota. The four-term governor was sentenced to 100 days in the county jail and three years' probation.

J. Fife Symington III, Republican of Arizona

Symington was convicted of bank fraud, making false financial statements and extortion, much of which was related to a failing real estate business. He was sentenced to prison, but his 1997 conviction was overturned and, in 2001, President Clinton gave him a pardon.

Jim Guy Tucker, Democrat of Arkansas

In 1996, a jury found Tucker guilty of fraud, conspiracy and the engineering of about $3 million in fraudulent loans. Tucker was spared prison, in part because of a serious liver illness. He was ordered to pay $294,000 back to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

David Lee Walters, Democrat of Oklahoma

In a 1993 deal with prosecutors, Walters pleaded guilty to one of the eight felony counts he faced for allegedly violating campaign contribution laws, perjury and conspiracy to hide donations.

Bob Taft, Republican of Ohio

In 2005, Taft pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor ethics counts for failing to report gifts of more than 50 golf outings, dinners and other largess. He was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine and write an apology to the people of Ohio.

Roger Wilson, Democrat of Missouri

In April 2012, Wilson pleaded guilty to illegally shifting money to make political donations. He faced a $2,000 fine and a year in prison, but was sentenced to pay the fine and given two years' probation.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amita Kelly is a Washington editor, where she works across beats and platforms to edit election, politics and policy news and features stories.
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