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McDonnell Lawyers Argue That Conviction Should Be Overturned

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Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, answers reporters questions as he leaves the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a hearing on the appeal of his corruption conviction in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, answers reporters questions as he leaves the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a hearing on the appeal of his corruption conviction in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was back in court today, this time challenging last year's conviction on charges he accepted gifts and loans in exchange for official acts.

During a hearing, McDonnell's legal team said that Judge James Spencer made a mistake by instructing the jurors about what constitutes an official act.

"It took the loophole and drove a Mack truck through it, your honor," said Noel Francisco, one of McDonnell's lawyers. "The government repeatedly argued to the jury that everything as innocuous as posing for a photo opportunity or simply arranging a meeting without anything more, all of those things constituted official governmental action."

Richard Cooke argued on behalf of the federal prosecutors, who say the governor scheduled meetings and performed other official acts within minutes of receiving gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, a wealthy businessman seeking scientific studies from the state.

"When you have a two-year pattern of conduct and the timing of it in this case is just, I think, devastating for the defendant," he said during the hearing.

After the oral arguments, McDonnell briefly before reporters and said he did nothing wrong. He also shared what he had learned from the experience, which could see him serve jail time if his conviction is upheld.

"Learning a lot about life and what's important in life and about friendships that have been sustained now for many years through thick and thin about the eternal and not the temporal," he said.

The three judge panel is expected to rule in the next two months.

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