Officer testifies about interviewing Virginia first lady at corruption trial

RICHMOND Va. Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:21pm EDT

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RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - A state police investigator testified on Tuesday at the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife that he interviewed the first lady about two checks from the business executive at the center of the case.

Special Agent Charles Hagan said a $15,000 check from businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. was used to pay for the wedding reception of the McDonnells' daughter.

Under prosecution questioning, Hagan said he interviewed Maureen McDonnell in February 2013 about the check, which turned up during an investigation into an alleged theft of food by a former chef at the governor's mansion.

McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife face 14 federal counts of corruption and bribery in connection with allegedly accepting $165,000 in loans and gifts from Williams, the former chief executive of a dietary supplement company now called Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Maureen McDonnell described Williams as a longtime family friend that her husband had first met while working at a hospital supply company, Hagan testified in U.S. District Court.

Investigators also uncovered a $50,000 check to Maureen McDonnell from a trust controlled by Williams. He is alleged to have wooed the couple in a bid to promote his company's main product, a supplement called Anatabloc.

Hagan testified that Maureen McDonnell described the $50,000 as a loan, but she could not produce a contract for its terms. The indictment says she lied about the loan.

In other testimony, former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said Williams, his client in a lobbying firm, frequently boasted about the strong support from the McDonnells for both the company and its products.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer said one of the jurors had been dismissed and had been replaced by an alternate. He gave no explanation.

On Monday, Rock Creek said it would halt sales of Anatabloc, which has been the subject of a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of health claims for the product.

Attorneys for the couple have argued that accepting the gifts and money was unseemly but not illegal. The trial is in its third week and is expected to run into September.

If convicted, the McDonnells could face more than 20 years in prison and a large fine. McDonnell's four-year term as governor ended in January.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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