U.S. Supreme Court Justices to conference on McDonnell appeal Friday

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - U.S. Supreme Court justices will discuss former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's corruption case Friday, a year after a federal judge sentenced McDonnell (R) to two years in prison.

Friday marks the first conference day of 2016, when the justices will discuss which cases to review, known as granting certiorari, and which cases to deny.

It is unlikely the Supreme Court will announce Friday if the justices will hear the former governor's appeal. The chances of learning McDonnell's fate will increase beginning Monday, Jan. 11, the first day the High Court issues orders for 2016.

If the justices agree to hear McDonnell's case, oral arguments could be held before June 2016. If the Court denies McDonnell's petition for certiorari, the man who was once a contender to become Mitt Romney's running mate would be forced to report to prison.

"McDonnell would not go to prison immediately if that decision is made," said NBC12 Legal Analyst Steven D. Benjamin in an interview Thursday.

"The feds have to pick a prison, and that could take a few days."

A federal judge recommended Petersburg's federal prison last year, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons would have the final say.

The location would depend on which facilities have space available. If McDonnell is sent to serve time, he would likely serve 85 percent of his sentence upon release, the federal calculation for serving with good behavior.

A jury convicted McDonnell in September 2014 on 11 federal corruption counts. The corruption case stemmed from McDonnell accepting $177,000 in gifts and loans from Henrico businessman Jonnie Williams.

Prosecutors alleged McDonnell received the gifts and financial favors in return for arranging preferred access between Williams and Virginia government officials.

The arrangements were allegedly made with the expectation of helping Williams sell his dietary supplement, Anatabloc.

The defense argued ingratiation and access do not amount to corruption, and the arrangements could not be construed as the governor performing illegal official acts.

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