Maureen McDonnell enters the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit for arguments in her husband’s public corruption case in May. Arguments in her appeal are scheduled for October. (Mark Gormus/AP)

Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell on Wednesday made her first bid to convince a federal appeals court that her public corruption convictions should be thrown out, even though her husband’s were allowed to stand, by stressing her “unique status as a non-public official” as a reason for her innocence.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had requested the filing from Robert F. McDonnell’s wife to help its judges decide whether — and how — her case can be differentiated from her husband’s. A three-judge panel last month rejected the former Republican governor’s bid to have his public corruption convictions set aside, and the entire 4th Circuit declined to take up the matter further, leaving the Supreme Court as Robert McDonnell’s last hope.

Although she was tried with her husband, Maureen McDonnell is pursuing her case separately, and oral arguments before the appeals court are scheduled for Oct. 29. Her attorneys argued Wednesday that while her husband’s appeal resolved many of the issues in her case, the federal bribery statute under which they both were convicted was unconstitutionally vague — at least how it applies to the former first lady.

As the “high school-educated spouse of a politician,” her attorneys wrote, Maureen McDonnell could not have “knowingly and deliberately” conspired to break the law with her husband because she couldn’t have known his seemingly innocuous actions qualified as the basis for a federal bribery case.

“As the extraordinary number and types of amicus briefs attest, notable public officials with extensive legal training had no idea that those actions would violate federal law,” Maureen McDonnell’s attorneys wrote. “A citizen like Mrs. McDonnell, without any legal training or public office experience, could not possibly have known.”

Prosecutors are expected to respond to the former first lady’s filing next month.

Both McDonnells 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. Robert McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison, and his wife was sentenced to a year and a day. Both were allowed to remain out of prison while they appealed the case. Robert McDonnell is now asking the appeals court to allow him to keep his freedom as he pursues a challenge with the Supreme Court.

Experts have said it is extremely unlikely that Maureen McDonnell will get her convictions thrown out in light of the outcome in her husband’s case. Even her attorneys conceded that there existed “undeniably substantial overlap” in the couple’s appeals.

Like Robert McDonnell, Maureen McDonnell alleged that her husband neither performed nor promised to perform any “official” acts for Williams. (Maureen McDonnell could perform no such acts because she is not a public official.) And, like her husband, Maureen McDonnell alleged that jurors were instructed wrongly on the topic.

Both McDonnells argued that it was improper for them to be tried together, and both said prospective jurors were not questioned thoroughly enough, especially about pretrial publicity.

In the filing Wednesday, Maureen McDonnell’s attorneys said they stood behind the arguments that Robert and Maureen McDonnell raised, and they said prosecutors had not proven a conspiracy between the two. The lawyers asserted that the outcome of the case gave prosecutors too much leeway to charge non-officeholders.

“The danger of unbridled prosecutorial discretion is particularly acute in a case like this one, where prosecutors, in an unprecedented move, indicted not just the public official but also his spouse,” Maureen McDonnell’s attorneys wrote.