Former Virginia Gov.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overturned U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer's refusal to keep McDonnell free on bail pending his appeal.
Spencer had sentenced McDonnell to two years in prison after his conviction in September on 11 public corruption counts in a sensational trial that listed a litany of gifts and loans showered on McDonnell, his wife, Maureen, and their children by businessman Johnnie R. Williams.
In his appeal McDonnell contends that he did nothing of significance for Williams in return, an argument that some legal experts predicted could be taken seriously by the appeals judges.
The appeals court found that McDonnell's appeal "raises a substantial question of law or fact," that merited his release pending the outcome of the appeal.
The court said it would expedite the appeal and scheduled oral arguments for May 12.
Maureen McDonnell, who was also convicted, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20.