In a major victory for the man once considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s federal corruption appeal.
It is likely the case will be heard in late April, with a decision possible by late June.
McDonnell is asking the High Court to overturn his 11 federal corruption convictions, or grant him a new trial in Richmond. The first Virginia governor to ever be convicted of a crime, McDonnell has vowed to fight his two-year prison sentence.
"“I am very grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision today to hear my case," McDonnell said in a statement Friday.
"I am innocent of these crimes and ask the Court to reverse these convictions. I maintain my profound confidence in God's grace to sustain me and my family, and thank my friends and supporters across the country for their faithfulness over these past three years.”
The Supreme Court has allowed the once-rising Republican star to remain free from prison, until the conclusion of his appeal process.
A jury convicted McDonnell and his wife Maureen back in September 2014. The case stemmed from the McDonnells accepting $177,000 in gifts and loans from Henrico businessman Jonnie Williams.
Prosecutors alleged the McDonnells received the gifts and financial favors in return for arranging preferred access between Williams and Virginia government officials.
The arrangements were allegedly made with the expectation of securing state funds to help Williams and his dietary supplement pill, Anatabloc.
“[McDonnell] encouraged state researchers to study Anatabloc and urged the relevant officials to cover Anatabloc under the state health plan,” federal prosecutors argued.
The defense contended assistance and access did not amount to corruption, and the arrangements could not be construed as the governor performing illegal official acts.
McDonnell’s lawyers said the governor’s acts, “were limited to routine political courtesies: arranging meetings, asking questions, and attending events.”
But government lawyers countered Williams received help from the governor’s office within days or minutes of the businessman sending the McDonnells money for credit card payments. In their view, the situation created a critical, and criminal context.
“While petitioner was soliciting and receiving those personal benefits from Williams, he used the power of his office to influence Virginia officials to accord Williams favorable treatment,” wrote lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mrs. McDonnell’s separate appeal will remain on hold, pending a Supreme Court decision on her husband’s case.