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Court: Ex-Virginia Gov. McDonnell will be free during appeal

Updated at: 01/26/2015 2:52 PM
By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM

(AP) RICHMOND, Va. - RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will remain free while he appeals his corruption convictions, a federal court ruled Monday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said McDonnell's appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact that could warrant reversal or a new trial.

The court also ordered that briefs in the case be filed by March 2 and set a May 12 hearing.

McDonnell's two-year prison term was set to begin Feb. 9 after a jury last year found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of illegally accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from wealthy vitamin entrepreneur Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his products. Prosecutors originally sought a sentence of more than 10 years for McDonnell, whose lawyers recommended three years of community service.

McDonnell's attorneys asked the court to allow him to remain free on bail while he appeals, arguing that the appeal could take almost as long as the sentence itself and would raise substantial questions, including whether the government's interpretation of an "official act" is correct. Federal prosecutors opposed the request, saying the appeal isn't strong and that McDonnell's claim that the judge defined an "official act" too broadly isn't likely to result in a reversal of his convictions.

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum .

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