High Court Reprieve for McDonnell on Path to Prison

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia governor headed to prison for fraud and corruption, won a temporary stay Monday from the Supreme Court’s chief justice.
     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.
     Chief Justice John Roberts granted the stay Monday and ordered the government to respond to McDonnell’s application by Aug. 26.
     McDonnell will remain free “pending consideration of the response and further order of the undersigned or of the court,” the brief order states.
     The Fourth Circuit rejected the request for a stay that McDonnell had submitted last week.
     Next month marks 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,” he wrote last week.

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