SCOTUS keeps McDonnell free during appeal as more question conviction

Bob McDonnellBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Good news was handed down Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Virginia’s former Governor Bob McDonnell would remain free as they decide whether to take up his case (see U.S. Supreme Court lets McDonnell stay free for now by Frank Green).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:

In a one-paragraph order, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was ordered to hold off making its July 10 ruling upholding McDonnell’s 11 corruption convictions final, permitting McDonnell to remain on bond.

Should the justices not take the case, the stay ordered this afternoon will end automatically. If the court takes the case the stay will continue, the court ordered.

McDonnell’s lawyers made the request to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who referred the matter to the full court. McDonnell needed a majority vote for the stay – it is unclear if the full court voted – but only needs four votes for the court to agree to take up his appeal.

Randall Eliason, former chief of the Public Corruption/Government Fraud Section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, expressed surprise at the ruling:

“It suggests there is some level of interest at the Supreme Court in reviewing the case, even though not a single appellate judge in the 4th Circuit agreed with his arguments.”

The legions of supporters who have stood by Governor McDonnell throughout the process, believing a travesty of justice had been committed by his indictment and conviction, expressed relief as the news spread like wildfire on social media. They were buoyed even more as opinions by legal types seemed to indicate there was hope that the governor may finally be catching a break in what has been a long, grueling process that has been emotionally and financially draining for all concerned.

“I am surprised,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of law. “There’s no explanation” provided by the justices, “so it’s really hard to know what the vote might have been. But I think it may be a hopeful sign for McDonnell,” he said.

“I certainly buys some time,” perhaps four months or more while the court considers taking the case, he said. “I think it shows there is some interest on the court in this case,” but not necessarily the ultimate outcome. “There’s still a lot of steps to go,” he said.

And still the most questionable figure in it all, Jonny Williams, remains free, granted blanket immunity by federal prosecutors who turned a blind eye to his questionable and possibly illegal business dealings in order to go after the very popular McDonnell. That is a bone of contention that many Virginians cannot overcome, as expressed in a letter to the editor by Powhatan resident Donald Laslie who wrote (see McDonnell case: Feds decide what constitutes quid pro quo):

Congratulations to Governor McAuliffe on closing the Hardywood Brewery deal with a pot full of grants and tax incentives. After the earlier Stone Brewery deal, the squeaky wheel finally got some ”grease.” Most observers, myself included, might reckon this to be a good thing.

But let’s not forget. Bob McDonnell, our former elected governor, is about to go to jail over “quid pro quo.” Jonnie Williams, the ignoble courtier and Anatabloc salesman, is walking free, a receiver of such “official acts” as rubbing a few shoulders, a photo-op, and a dinner.

With Bob McDonnell’s arrest, the Feds got their man. Yippee! But I fail to distinguish the “official acts” of our two governors. And, with such overreaching judicial precedents now in place, I wonder if any of our elected servants is safe if a team of Federal prosecutors, for whatever suspicions, decides otherwise.

Laslie continued (see Judicial proceedings flawed in McDonnell case):

I’ve never met the man [Bob McDonnell]. But what has happened to him has prompted me to passionately defend this public servant against a judicial proceeding that was clearly flawed. I am not alone in my firm belief that a travesty of justice, substantial federal overreach, no less, has occurred against not a criminal, but a strategic political target.

The entire overreach of the federal government, prosecuting and convicting a state governor who had broken no Virginia state laws, may be another reason why so many, both within political circles and private citizens throughout the Commonwealth, have not abandoned a man known to be good and fair in his leadership qualities, even-tempered, and one of the most popular governors in the country who was on his way to a possible presidential run in 2016.

What many have called a witch hunt took care of that. Whatever moved the court to today’s decision is much appreciated.

If you are interested in helping Governor McDonnell, please consider writing a letter to the editor. His supporters also have set up the Restoration Fund to help with his extensive legal expenses (donate here):

“We believe that Bob McDonnell has complied with the laws of Virginia as they relate to financial disclosures.  For a decades-long public servant like Governor McDonnell, the legal fees being incurred by the investigations  spurred by the case against the former mansion chef could be ruinous.   The  Governor’s friends want to ensure that he can wage a vigorous defense and clear his good name.  Bob McDonnell’s over four decades of public service to Virginia and the nation, in the U.S. Army, as a prosecutor, Delegate,  Attorney General and as Governor has always been one of leadership and conviction.”

Today’s ruling is wonderful news. Governor McDonnell continues to be supported in thought and prayer by his many supporters.

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