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Former First Couple of Virginia Puts Hopes in U.S. Supreme Court

by Pete Williams /
Image: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (C) is accompanied by his daughter Cailin Young (2nd L) as they leave the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia August 26, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company, Star Scientific. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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A federal appeals court Wednesday put on hold an appeal of the conviction of former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell, until the US Supreme Court acts on a similar appeal filed by her husband.

She and former governor Robert McDonnell were found guilty last year of accepting thousands of dollars worth of gifts and favors from a Virginia businessman who sought their help in promoting diet supplements made from tobacco.

In late August, the court issued an order allowing the former governor to remain out of prison until the justices decide whether to hear an appeal of his conviction. The order came just as he was about to begin serving a two-year sentence.

His lawyers filed their appeal in the Supreme Court Tuesday, arguing that his prosecution was the result of a dramatic expansion of federal corruption law.

"This is the first time in our history that a public official has been convicted of corruption despite never agreeing to put a thumb on the scale of any government decision. Officials routinely arrange meetings for donors, take their calls, and politely listen to their ideas."

On Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia agreed to put Maureen McDonnell's case on hold until the Supreme Court either declines to hear her husband's appeal or agrees to take it and renders a decision. The appeals court had scheduled courtroom argument in her case on October 29.

Holding her case in abeyance, her lawyers argued, would avoid the possibility that the appeals court could rule on issues only to have the Supreme Court go in a different direction.

The Supreme Court could announce as early as mid-December whether it will hear Robert McDonnell's appeal.

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