Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell addresses the media after his sentencing hearing in Richmond, Virginia January 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jay Westcott/File photo
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The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday appeared poised to throw out the corruption convictions of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, a move federal prosecutors fear could undermine their ability to bring crooked politicians to justice.During the one-hour argument, several of the eight justices signaled that the conduct of McDonnell in accepting $177,000 in gifts and sweetheart loans from a businessman seeking to promote a dietary supplement did not constitute a criminal act.The U.S. Justice Department asserts that overturning McDonnell's conviction could harm its ability to enforce laws against corruption by political figures.A judge sentenced McDonnell to two years behind bars, but the Supreme Court last year said he would not have to report to prison while his appeals were ongoing.The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld McDonnell's conviction in July 2015, and he subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court.If the Supreme Court, shorthanded since the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, is split 4-4 in McDonnell's appeal, that would leave intact the lower-court's ruling upholding his conviction.
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