Six former Virginia attorneys general on Friday lent their support to former governor Robert F. McDonnell’s effort to stay out of prison while his appeal is pending, telling an appeals court that his conviction, if allowed to stand, “would wreak havoc upon the public life of Virginia.”
The attorneys general — four Democrats and two Republicans spanning nearly three decades in office — asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to consider their amicus brief in support of McDonnell’s request for bond pending appeal.
McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in September of lending the prestige of the governor’s office to Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for $177,000 in loans, vacations and luxury goods. McDonnell was sentenced to two years behind bars this month; his wife is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20.
Ordered to report to prison Feb. 9, McDonnell has appealed the case and asked the appeals court to let him remain free while that appeal is ongoing.
The filing by the attorneys general is not entirely surprising; five of the six asked the court to consider a similar brief soon after McDonnell was charged, and were denied. Joining them Friday was Anthony F. Troy, a former attorney general who was appointed to represent McDonnell in 2013 as the case unfolded and whose own investigation found that McDonnell gave no state contracts, awards or gubernatorial appointments to Williams.
In their filing, the six former attorneys general argued that the McDonnell conviction relied on an “expansive interpretation” of federal law that would criminalize routine political dealings. They also suggested that some of McDonnell’s actions might fall into the category of free speech.
In addition to Troy, those signing the brief were Andrew P. Miller, J. Marshall Coleman, Mary Sue Terry, Stephen D. Rosenthal and Mark L. Earley.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Henry Asbill, McDonnell’s defense attorney declined to comment.