Ex-governor's freedom bid on hold until prosecutors respond

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court will receive written arguments from federal prosecutors before deciding whether former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell must go to prison while he appeals his corruption convictions, Chief Justice John Roberts said in an order Monday.

The brief order by Roberts gave prosecutors until Wednesday to respond to McDonnell's petition to remain free until the Supreme Court decides whether to review his case. It also said that a federal appeals court's final order upholding McDonnell's convictions will be placed on hold until Roberts or the Supreme Court can rule on McDonnell's request. If the appeals court's final order were allowed to take effect, it would set the wheels in motion for McDonnell to report to prison.

McDonnell last week made a last-ditch plea to the high court to stay out of prison after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the same request.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted last September of doing favors for a wealthy businessman in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. The former GOP governor was sentenced to two years in prison; his wife to one year and one day.

McDonnell has maintained his innocence and argued that he was unfairly charged for providing routine political courtesies that all politicians dole out. He plans to ask the Supreme Court to consider whether federal bribery laws are too vague.

Earlier this month, the 15-member 4th Circuit refused to reconsider a three-judge panel's unanimous ruling upholding McDonnell's convictions on 11 public corruption charges. The case derailed the career of the rising Republican star, who had been viewed as a possible running mate to presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court will hear arguments on Maureen McDonnell's eight convictions in late October. She remains free while she pursues her appeal.

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