A federal appeals court says former Massachusetts Probation Commissioner John O'Brien and a former deputy convicted in a corruption case can delay their prison sentences during appeals.

O'Brien was convicted last year on federal racketeering and mail fraud charges and sentenced to 18 months. Prosecutors said he masterminded a scheme to rig the department's hiring process to favor politically-connected candidates.

Co-defendant Elizabeth Tavares also was convicted of racketeering and mail fraud. She was sentenced to three months. Both were to report to prison this month.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday both can remain free on bail while their appeals are pending.

Prosecutors said during a two-month trial that the defendants — led by O'Brien — created a "sham" process designed to circumvent the agency's merit-based hiring.