Reversal of Fortune: McDonnell to Remain Free Pending Appeal

Virginia ex-Governor Governor Bob McDonnell has persuaded the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to allow him to remain free on bond while he appeals his bribery conviction.  The surprise ruling comes less than two weeks after District Judge James Spencer denied that request, taking the view that the central issue raised by McDonnell on appeal, whether he had performed an “official act” in exchange for gifts and loans, was not a close question that would justify release pending appeal.

In overturning the District Court’s ruling, the Court of Appeals found that McDonnell should remain free for now because his appeal “raises a substantial question of law or fact” that could warrant reversal or a new trial.

This ruling is the first good news for McDonnell in a long time and the tea leaves are troubling for prosecutors, since they imply that the Fourth Circuit may have serious concerns about the district court’s interpretation of the federal bribery statutes underlying McDonnell’s conviction.  The appeals court has ordered expedited briefing and will hear oral arguments on May 12, 2015.

McDonnell had been scheduled to report to prison on February 9.

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