Ex-Va. Gov. McDonnell Appeals to High Court

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – In the wake of the former Virginia governor’s failed retrial bid, attorneys for Robert McDonnell said they will appeal his corruption convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court.
     The Fourth Circuit upheld McDonnell’s 11 corruption and fraud convictions in July, finding that he received a fair trial. The Richmond-based appeals court also denied his petition to challenge the convictions last week, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court as his only appeals option.
     McDonnell asked to remain free during his ongoing appeals process and, in a motion filed Monday, claimed he poses no risk of flight or public endangerment.
     McDonnell says he will revisit the questions presented before the Fourth Circuit in May — whether the ex-governor was acting in his official capacity when he accepted $177,000 in money and gifts from pharmaceutical CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting the unregulated dietary supplement Anatabloc, and whether the prosecution mishandled juror selection in light of negative pretrial publicity.
     “The panel here upheld Gov. McDonnell’s conviction even though he did not exercise, promise to exercise, or pressure anyone else to exercise, or pressure anyone to exercise governmental power on Mr. Williams’ behalf,” the ex-governor wrote in a separate motion last week. “Nor was the jury instructed that this distinction was relevant to finding ‘official action.'”
     McDonnell’s attorneys claim that the nation’s high court should take an interest in his case, particularly with the issue of what constitutes “official action.” He says that question has “serious implications for elected officials,” according to Monday’s motion.
     “Gov. McDonnell’s petition will ask whether a public official takes ‘official action’ by asking an aide a question, encouraging a staffer to attend a meeting, or appearing at a private event — even without taking the additional step of asking anyone to exercise any actual government power,” McDonnell wrote.
     The former governor asked the Fourth Circuit to keep him out of jail while he tries to appeal to the Supreme Court.
     “This court should thus acknowledge, as it did before, that jurists can reasonably disagree about difficult legal questions…and recognize that the Supreme Court might disagree with this court’s conclusions – which is all that Gov. McDonnell needs to show in order to remain free pending that court’s review,” the motion states. “In short, Gov. McDonnell should not be imprisoned ‘before he has a fair opportunity to seek Supreme Court review.'”
     If granted, McDonnell will dodge his two-year jail sentence for six more months, pending the Supreme Court appeal.

%d bloggers like this: