RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell testified during his corruption trial on Friday that he saw nothing inappropriate about accepting $70,000 in loans from a businessman to help pay the bills on beach properties.
During his third day on the witness stand, McDonnell said he considered the businessman, dietary supplement entrepreneur Jonnie Williams Sr., a friend.
“Mr. Williams had not asked me for anything, and he didn’t want me to do anything. I didn’t think borrowing money from a friend was a problem,” McDonnell, a Republican, said under defense questioning.
McDonnell said he did not put a $50,000 loan on a government disclosure form because it was made out to MoBo Realty, a corporation he and his sister used to manage their beach properties.
The governor also asked Williams for another $20,000 loan about two months later, in May 2012.
The McDonnells have been charged with bribery and fraud in a 14-count indictment for allegedly taking $177,00 in gifts and loans from Williams, in exchange for promoting his company and its dietary supplement product, Anatabloc.
Williams testified for the prosecution that he wooed the McDonnells to gain influence as he sought state-sponsored research for Anatabloc.
In earlier testimony, McDonnell said he did not see anything inappropriate about his wife receiving a $50,000 loan from Williams, or Williams giving $15,000 for the wedding reception of the couple’s daughter.
Williams has testified that he worked with the governor to conceal the $50,000 loan to MoBo Realty, but McDonnell said that the conversation never occurred.
The former governor testified this week that his marriage was so frayed that he was no longer living with his wife. Defense lawyers have contended the couple could not have conspired together since their marriage was on the rocks.
In testimony about meeting with two state officials who deal with health plans for state employees, McDonnell acknowledged that he had taken out a bottle of Anatabloc and told them it had a positive effect on him.
His memory was blurry, he said, on whether he told the officials to contact representatives of Williams’ company, Star Scientific Inc.
But Sara Wilson, head of Virginia’s Department of Human Resources Management, has testified that her boss, who accompanied her to the meeting, clearly believed that the governor wanted them to meet with Star officials.
Editing by Ian Simpson and Chris Reese