WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to discuss the corruption case of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Friday. A jury found McDonnell, who was once discussed as a potential Republican presidential candidate, accepted more than $170,000 in gifts and loans from Henrico CEO Johnnie WIlliams, in exchange for gaining access to key government officials.
Prosecutors said McDonnell and his wife Maureen helped pitch Williams' vitamin products and arranged meetings between Williams and policy makers.
McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison back in January 2015, but the U.S. Supreme Court, and a federal appeal court before that, has allowed him to remain free during his appeals process.
The U.S. Supreme Court justices are scheduled to hold a private session Friday in which they will discuss whether or not to take up McDonnell's appeal. If they decide to take the case, oral arguments would likely be held later this summer. If the do not take up McDonnell's appeal, the former Governor would begin serving his prison sentence, according to legal experts.
Legal analysts said it seems likely the Supreme Court will take McDonnell's case. In a post to RVAlawblog.com, CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone wrote that the fact McDonnell's team is focusing their argument around a "legal issue" and not a "factual issue" improves their odds of the justices taking the case. Stone added Chief Justice John Roberts allowed McDonnell to remain free on bond, thus hinting at the highest court's eventual intentions.
"Most telling is this. The Court granted McDonnell’s petition to stay the mandate from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which resulted in McDonnell remaining on bond. This appears to be unprecedented, at least in recent years. In his application requesting the stay, McDonnell noted that a single Justice has the authority to grant an emergency stay so long as there's a “reasonable probability” that the Court will hear the case," Stone wrote.
McDonnell's attorneys maintain the Governor was doing routine political work when he met with Williams and that Williams' company never got the state sponsored studies he sought. They have called McDonnell's prosecution "unprecedented" in legal filings.
In legal briefs to the Supreme Court, prosecutors wrote the evidence presented at trial fully supported the jury's decision to convict McDonnell on the majority of the corruption charges brought against him.
The case and the Supreme Court's decision whether or not the hear the case has drawn attention from lawmakers and legal experts nationwide. Some fear upholding McDonnell's conviction would open the door for prosecutors everywhere to go after politicians for doing what is considered routine political work --like taking meetings with local businessmen or lobbyists.
Dozens of former Attorneys General from across the U.S. have filed a letter with the Supreme Court saying just that.
Maureen McDonnell's appeal is currently before the Federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The former First Lady will be allowed to stay out of prison until the Supreme Court makes a decision in her husband's case.