[JURIST] Attorneys for former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell [Biography profile] on Tuesday asked the US Supreme Court [official website] to overturn his conviction [cert. petition, PDF] and his two-year prison sentence on corruption charges [WP backgrounder]. The charges stem from McDonnell and his wife’s involvement with Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams, who was trying to build a commercial product to market and reached out to them for help in the process. McDonnell’s attorneys claim that there is insufficient proof to convict him of taking gifts in return for “official acts” and that the trial judge failed to mitigate the effect of the publicity involved in the case to potential jurors. In defending the governor’s relationship Williams, the petition added that “officials routinely arrange meetings for donors, take their calls, and politely listen to their ideas.” In regards to the publicity argument, the petition mentioned that “[d]espite the requirement of grand jury secrecy, publicity began shortly after prosecutors convened a grand jury in spring 2013. Improper disclosures fed a 16-month pretrial barrage of negative articles, TV and radio spots, and social-media posts.” The US government has 30 days to file a response but may ask to extend the filing time.
McDonnell and his wife were accused [USA Today report] in 2014 of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from businessman Williams in exchange for favors for and promotions of the company. During the trial, significant evidence was produced showing how the McDonnells frequently promoted the dietary supplements of Star Scientific—the company headed by Williams. Last month the Supreme Court granted [JURIST report] McDonnell’s emergency application to stay his mandated jailing while the court decides whether to hear his appeal. In August an attorney for Bob McDonnell said he would appeal [JURIST report] the public corruption convictions to the Supreme Court after the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit refused to reconsider the case.