RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has approved former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request to remain free while he appeals his corruption convictions. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said McDonnell’s appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact that could warrant reversal or a new trial. The court also ordered that briefs in the case be filed by March 2 and set a May 12 hearing. A jury last year found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of taking gifts and loans from a vitamin executive in exchange for promoting his products. McDonnell was scheduled to begin his two-year prison term Feb. 9. Federal prosecutors had opposed McDonnell’s request to remain free on bail pending his appeal.