How McDonnells will go after an appeal

WASHINGTON — Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell’s lawyer says he plans to appeal convictions on 11 corruption counts, but that appeal will have to wait.

McDonnell and his wife Maureen, who was convicted on a total of nine counts, cannot file their appeal until after they are sentenced in January.

While they face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count, they will likely be sentenced to less prison time than that.

In the run-up to and during the nearly six-week trial, defense attorneys signaled several times through objections or arguments to the judge what the lawyers saw as potential grounds for appeal.

During motions to have the case dismissed, and again during arguments over jury instructions, the defense teams argued that the benefits that Jonnie Williams received did not meet the definition of “official acts” required for a corruption conviction. The defense argued that for an exchange to be bribery, there had to be a specific exchange of gifts for services.

Instead, the judge instructed the jury that even an unsuccessful plan or offer to trade the governor’s office for cash was illegal, and enough for a conviction on some counts.

In a separate but related argument signaled in motions at the end of the prosecution case, the defense may also attack the law that underlies some of the McDonnells’ convictions: honest services fraud.

The Supreme Court has restricted its application in the past, including in a case involving Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling.

While Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer has not explicitly expressed plans for an appeal, one is likely coming from her team as well.

Both defense teams may also raise other issues on appeal, including that their request to have separate trials was rejected.

Maureen McDonnell’s team had told the court she would testify for her husband if he were tried separately, but she did not want to testify in a trial where she was a defendant. She did not take the stand.

When Bob McDonnell’s defense team began to bring out more and more details about the former First Lady’s mental state and outbursts, her lawyer, Bill Burck, renewed the motion to sever the cases entirely or to sever only the obstruction count that she was eventually convicted on.

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