High Court Keeps Prison at Bay for McDonnell

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The rest of the Supreme Court joined their chief Monday in keeping Virginia’s former governor out prison while he appeals a corruption conviction.
     Claiming that he poses no risk of flight or public endangerment, McDonnell asked that the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 20 to postpone his two-year sentence while prepares his petition for certiorari.
     After Chief Justice John Roberts granted the stay last week, both the government and McDonnell filed responses.
     The full court granted a new stay Monday, “pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari.”
     “Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically,” the brief order states. “In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the issuance of the judgment of this court.
     The Fourth Circuit had rejected McDonnell’s previous request for a stay.
     Friday will mark a year since a federal jury convicted the Republican lawmaker on 11 counts of corruption and fraud, finding that he accepted $177,000 in money and gifts from pharmaceutical CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting the unregulated dietary supplement Anatabloc.
     The Richmond-based Fourth Circuit upheld McDonnell’s convictions in July, saying McDonnell received a fair trial, and refused him an en banc rehearing earlier this month.
     McDonnell had said that he wants the high court to revisit the questions that the Fourth Circuit shot down: whether he was acting in his official capacity when he accepted the “gifts” from Williams, and whether the prosecution mishandled juror selection in light of negative pretrial publicity.
     Attorneys for the beleaguered politician claim that the nation’s high court should take an interest in his case, particularly with the issue of what constitutes “official action.”
     They say that question has “serious implications for elected officials.”
     “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,” they said in a prior filing.

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