By Gary Robertson
RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday denied a request by former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell to remain out of prison while he appeals his corruption convictions to the Supreme Court.
McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party, and his wife were convicted in September of taking $177,000 in gifts and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting one of his company's dietary supplements.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the request by McDonnell, who was governor from 2010 until 2014, in a one-paragraph ruling that did not make clear when he would be required to begin serving his two-year sentence.
The same appeals court earlier this month had denied McDonnell's appeal of his conviction.
Lawyers for McDonnell, the first Virginia governor to be convicted on criminal charges, had argued that he did not represent a flight risk or threat to public safety and thus did not need to be imprisoned.
"I am saddened by the court's decision today to deny me freedom while I pursue vindication in the U.S. Supreme Court," McDonnell said, according to a statement published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "I am innocent of these charges and will petition the U.S. Supreme Court for a grant of bond."
McDonnell's lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Maureen McDonnell was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and has also been free pending appeal.
The state's attorney general, a Democrat, ruled last month that McDonnell could be stripped of his pension benefits as a result of the conviction under a law that McDonnell signed during his time in office.
(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Bill Trott)