Judge denies McDonnell’s appeal to remain free

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, hugs his daughters Cailin Young, left, and Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky, right, after speaking outside federal court in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. McDonnell was sentenced to two years prison and two years probation in his corruption case. He is to report to prison by Feb. 9. His wife, who was convicted on eight counts of corruption, will be sentenced Feb. 20. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

WASHINGTON – A judge has denied former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request to remain free while his sentence is appealed.

Lawyers say his appeal on his corruption convictions could take almost as long as his two-year prison sentence itself.

In a court filing late Monday, McDonnell’s attorneys reiterated their request that he remain free pending appeal. But the judge denied that request Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer writes in his rejection order that there is no substantial question of law that would warrant a retrial. Spencer writes that the government clearly proved its case that McDonnell used his office for personal gain, resulting in the jury’s verdict.

“McDonnell knew what (Jonnie) Williams was seeking,” Spencer writes. “McDonnell attempted to use his gubernatorial office to influence governmental decision in favor of Star Scientific.”

“McDonnell assuredly did more than provide meer access to Williams – he performed ‘official acts’ as that term is defined under federal bribery laws…..This is not a ‘close question’ that justifies release pending appeal,” according to the judge’s order.

The former governor’s attorneys argued McDonnell would be deprived of a meaningful appeal if he’s required to serve the bulk of his sentence before the case is resolved. And they said the appeal will raise substantial questions, including whether the government’s interpretation of an “official act” is correct and questioning the jury selection process.

A jury last year found McDonnell and his wife guilty of taking lavish gifts and loans from Williams, who was CEO of Star Scientific, in exchange for promoting the company’s products.

McDonnell will have to report to prison in February. His wife, Maureen McDonnell will be sentenced later in February for her eight convictions stemming from the joint trial.

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Max Smith contributed to this report.

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