RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell filed a petition Friday for the entire 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider his conviction on corruption charges. The move comes after a three-judge appeals panel unanimously upheld the convictions earlier this month.
In the filing, McDonnell’s lawyers said the panel hadn’t adequately outlined the legal difference between bribery and routine political courtesies.
“The panel’s decision establishes an unprecedented and opaque line between lawful politics and federal felonies,” McDonnell’s legal team said in its filing.
A jury in September found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of doing favors for former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.
The former Republican governor, once widely considered a possible running mate to former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was sentenced in January to two years in prison. His wife was sentenced in February to one year and one day in prison. Both are free on bond while they pursue appeals.
Throughout the legal process, McDonnell has the favors he did for Williams were too insignificant to amount to an “official act” under federal bribery law. In the petition Friday, McDonnell’s legal team repeated those arguments. They said that by the standards set in the McDonnell case, the “President violates the federal bribery statutes whenever he invites donors to the White House Christmas Party.”
The former Republican governor’s attorneys also said McDonnell hadn’t been given enough opportunity to question whether any potential jurors had been influenced by the negative media stories surrounding his case. McDonnell’s lawyers said that by upholding the ruling, the appeals panel’s decision conflicts with previous legal precedent on jury selection.
Following the three-judge panel’s decision earlier this month, McDonnell’s options included asking the entire 4th Circuit to rehear his appeal or to try and take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“En banc” rehearings by the full appeals court are rarely granted.
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