POLITICS
08/31/2015 06:32 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2015

Supreme Court Temporarily Spares Bob McDonnell From Prison... Again

The court's move effectively allows the former governor to stay out of prison while he files a formal appeal.

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) will be sitting out his prison sentence for a while longer.

On Monday, the court agreed to temporarily delay an appellate court judgment that effectively would have required McDonnell to report to prison for his multiple convictions on corruption charges.

According to the court's order, McDonnell's reprieve "is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari."   

That means McDonnell doesn't have to sit in jail while he files a formal appeal with the justices -- a lengthy process that could take several months.

If after that process the court decides it doesn't want to hear McDonnell's case at all, Monday's order would expire and McDonnell would have to turn himself in. 

But if the Supreme Court ultimately agrees to hear the appeal and adds the case to its docket, the former governor would remain free until the case is fully briefed, argued and decided -- which could take more than a year. 

These days, the Supreme Court agrees to hear about 70 cases per term. Though McDonnell need only convince four justices that his case is strong enough to merit review, he faces long odds since the court accepts only a small percentage of the thousands of appeals it receives each term.

But maybe luck is on his side. 

Chief Justice John Roberts last week spared McDonnell from prison briefly to allow for the Department of Justice to weigh in on what to do with the ex-governor, who had filed an emergency petition to seek delay of his prison report date, which was expected to be Aug. 27.

Federal prosecutors forcefully opposed the petition and argued McDonnell's request was "extraordinary." They tried to convince the justices that what McDonnell was really asking for was a grant of bail, which they said was unheard-of in recent court history. 

But the former governor's lawyers disagreed with that characterization. They contended successfully that the unresolved legal issues were "substantial" and that McDonnell faced "irreparable harm" that, if left unaddressed, would "carry staggering consequences for everyday politics." 

“A 24-month sentence is a 24-month sentence, whether it begins in August 2015 or March 2016,” his lawyers argued.

"I am grateful for the Supreme Court decision today and thank Almighty God for His protection and provision for me and my family," McDonnell said in a statement Monday, according to CNN.

This post has been updated with a statement from McDonnell.

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