Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell speaks to members of the media outside U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia after his sentencing on Jan. 6 in Richmond, Va.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Aug. 31, 2015 4:59 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court Monday granted former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plea to avoid prison while he pursues a last-ditch appeal of his convictions on federal corruption charges. Mr. McDonnell was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment following his January conviction on what federal prosecutors characterized as a “quid pro quo bribery scheme” with a Virginia businessman seeking to promote a dietary supplement product. In an unsigned order, the justices said Mr. McDonnell need not report to prison while he prepares his Supreme Court appeal, which the justices will then consider whether to hear. If the court ultimately declines to hear the case, Mr. McDonnell will have to report to prison soon thereafter. If it accepts the case, he will remain free at least until a decision is reached, likely by June 2016. “We are deeply gratified that the justices have recognized that this case raises substantial and important legal questions, and that Gov. McDonnell should not be imprisoned until the Supreme Court has a full opportunity to consider those questions,” said Noel Francisco, an attorney for Mr. McDonnell. The Justice Department had no comment on the Supreme Court’s order. The Supreme Court has taken a particular interest in recent years in the definition of corruption in political and white-collar criminal cases. A federal jury in Richmond, Va., found that Mr. McDonnell, a Republican elected in 2009, and his wife, Maureen, accepted more than $177,000 in money and luxury goods from Jonnie Williams, founder of Star Scientific Inc., to use the governor’s office to promote the Anatabloc product. Mr. McDonnell, once considered a promising national figure, has consistently maintained he did nothing wrong in accepting gifts from Mr. Williams, asserting that he neither promised nor exercised official powers in exchange. He repeatedly has argued that prosecutors overreached, effectively criminalizing the way powerful people typically interact. “Close relationships between business leaders, lobbyists, and public officials are commonplace,” Mr. McDonnell said in a Thursday court filing with the high court, arguing politicians routinely …Read More