Star witness ends testimony in Virginia ex-governor's corruption trial

RICHMOND Va. Mon Aug 4, 2014 3:04pm EDT

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell arrives with his legal team for his trial in Richmond, Virginia, July 28, 2014.   REUTERS/Jay Westcott

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell arrives with his legal team for his trial in Richmond, Virginia, July 28, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jay Westcott

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RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - The star witness for the prosecution in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife completed four days of testimony on Monday by detailing financial help he said he had given the couple.

At the start of the trial's second week, Jonnie Williams testified that he looked at his relationship with McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, not as friendship but business.

McDonnell and his wife are charged with 14 counts of corruption and bribery for allegedly accepting $165,000 in gifts and loans in exchange for supporting Williams' former company, a dietary supplement maker now known as Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals.

Williams, who testified in U.S. district court under immunity from prosecution, said McDonnell had called Williams's father at his request to wish him a happy 80th birthday.

"Was it business to have the governor call your father on his 80th birthday?" asked Henry Asbill, McDonnell's attorney, as he grilled Williams over his meetings with the governor and his immunity agreement.

"I didn't think I could have the governor make the call without all that money," said Williams.

Williams said he gave $50,000 to the couple after Maureen McDonnell told him their credit cards were tapped out, resort rental properties were underwater and money from rentals was not enough to make mortgage payments.

Williams said he found out later that the first lady had spent part of the loan to buy stock in his company. He described it as a “risky investment” for a couple that was in such financial straits. Williams testified McDonnell called him to say, "I'm a stockholder and I'm rooting for you."

Lawyers for McDonnell, a Republican once seen as a possible White House contender, and his wife have contended that accepting the gifts was unseemly but not illegal.

Defense attorneys have tried to distance the former governor from Williams, saying the interaction was primarily between him and Maureen McDonnell.

The former first lady's lawyers contend that the couple's marriage was unraveling when they accepted gifts from Williams and that she had a "crush" on Williams.If convicted, the McDonnells could each face more than 20 years in prison and a large fine. McDonnell's four-year term as governor ended in January.

(Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bill Trott and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (3)
dcayman wrote:
Anyone following this knows that Williams is only a spurned lover who was crushed when she went back to the governor…tried to buy her with money and gifts but in the end what the governor had he could never match…

Aug 04, 2014 11:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
MJJ1201 wrote:
dcayman – hah – we all know that the defendant is slut-shaming his wife as a defense. He got caught – he’s blaming his wife in court because he was smart enough to get things done “in her name”.

Aug 04, 2014 12:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Daleville wrote:
I doubt seriously that Williams was a spurned lover.

As greedy as Maureen seems to be, she would have never walked away from a man with all that money.

As far as the marriage being on the rocks ploy, what woman gives her husband, whom she is supposed to “hate”, a $7000 watch? What kind of a person gets someone else to buy the watch and then gives it as a gift to someone else?


Aug 04, 2014 6:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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