Supreme Court: Ex-Virginia Gov. McDonnell can stay out of prison while appealing conviction

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will not have to go to prison while the Supreme Court considers whether to consider his appeal of his public corruption convictions, the justices ruled Monday.

The court issued a brief order overturning a lower court's decision on McDonnell's incarceration.

McDonnell made a last-ditch plea to the high court to stay out of prison shortly after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond refused to grant the same request.

The Republican former governor was facing the possibility of having to report to prison within the next several weeks to begin his two-year sentence, handed down in January for doing favors for a wealthy businessman in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.

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.

The full 4th Circuit recently refused to reconsider a three-judge panel's unanimous ruling upholding McDonnell's convictions.

McDonnell was convicted 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.

McDonnell's wife, Maureen, also was convicted. She was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. She has remained free on bond while she pursues her separate appeals in the 4th Circuit.

The appeals court will hear arguments in Maureen McDonnell's case in late October. She has filed papers saying the recent appeals court decision in her husband's case shouldn't mean her own appeal suffers the same fate.