RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/AP) — The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for a rehearing on his 11 corruption convictions. His lawyer says he will now appeal his public corruption convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A federal appeals court announced Tuesday that eight of the 15 judges voted not to rehear the case and seven judges abstained, so the request was denied. McDonnell had filed a petition with the 4th U.S. Circuit July 24, after a three-judge appeals panel unanimously upheld the convictions in early July.
It’s those seven abstentions that caught legal analyst Steven Emmert’s attention: “It is interesting 7 of those judges said, ‘I’m not going to touch this.’ Probably because the judges are so close to the governor in the past.”
That is why McDonnell supporter, like former Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, want the U.S. Supreme Court to finally decide the case.
“You have 7 justices on the Court of Appeals recuse themselves out of 15. It is very important this case get reviewed in a dispassionate objective forum, and hopefully that will be the U.S. Supreme Court,” Earley said.
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.
Emmert pointed out, unlike same-sex marriage, which was finally decided by the supreme court, the lower courts are not in disagreement over the issues in the McDonnell case.
“The Supreme Court doesn’t take a case if they think it was wrongly decided. They will only take it if there were a difference between the different federal courts, and so far we don’t have that. We just have this one decision,” Emmert said.
Earley thinks and hopes the issues of what an “official act” is will get the high court on board with the case.
“Fifty percent of standard political conduct across the United State would be criminalized,” Emmert said.
Bob McDonnell released this statement Tuesday afternoon:
I am very disappointed in today’s court ruling. I am innocent of these charges. In my 38 years of public service to my country and the Commonwealth, I have never misused my office nor ever promised anyone anything in exchange for money. I will continue my journey for justice to the highest court in the United States. I am grateful to my wonderful family, dear friends and legal team for their unwavering support and belief in me, and for the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ for sustaining me. I look forward to the day when vindication is obtained and my family’s good name is fully restored.”
Back in September 2014, a jury 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 was sentenced in January to two years in prison. His wife was sentenced in February to one year and one day in prison. They both remain free on bond while they pursue appeals.
Attorney Henry Asbill declined to say whether McDonnell will have to report to prison. McDonnell’s attorneys gave WAVY.com this statement:
We are disappointed in today’s decision from the 4th Circuit. Mr. McDonnell’s family, friends and legal team are prepared to continue our journey for justice to the highest court in the United States. The facts of this case and the Court ruling have serious negative consequences for nearly every public official in America. We will not cease our legal fight until Governor McDonnell is fully vindicated.”
WAVY.com asked Emmert if he were McDonnell’s attorney, what he would advise McDonnell to do.
“Take the case to Washington. That is the only hope he’s got. The only other option is to show up with a tooth brush at the prison gates,” Emmert said. “There’s only one chance now, and McDonnell should take that chance.”