(CN) - Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will remain free while he appeals his convictions on corruption charges, a federal appeals court ruled.
McDonnell's two-year prison term was to begin February 9 after a jury found him and his wife, Maureen, guilty of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts from supplement maker Jonnie Williams in exchange for using their influence to promote his products.
McDonnell's lawyers argued he should remain free on appeal because overturning his conviction could take as long as the sentence he received. They also continue to question whether the government's interpretation of what constitutes an "official act," a linchpin of the prosecution's case, is correct.
The McDonnells have long maintained that while they did accept gifts in exchange for promoting Williams' products, never did they do so under the color of their roles as governor and first-lady.
The 4th Circuit concluded McDonnell's attorney had in fact raised a substantial question of law, and that their client did not pose a flight risk or a danger to others.
The court also ordered that briefs in the case be filed by March 2, and set May 12, as the date of the first hearing of the former governor's appeal.
McDonnell expressed his gratitude upon hearing the ruling.
"I plan to spend time with my new granddaughter who was born this month, attend my sons' graduation ceremonies, and embrace family time with my daughter," he said. "I want to thank my family, my friends and legal team for their tireless support and unwavering belief in my innocense. At this time our family requests privacy."
Maureen McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced on February 20.
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