August 1, 2014 / 1:41 PM / 3 years ago

Corruption trial of former Virginia governor to hear from businessman

RICHMOND, Va., Aug 1 (Reuters) - The businessman at the heart of the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife is due back on the witness stand on Friday for a third day of testimony, including likely questions from defense attorneys.

Jonnie Williams, the former chief executive of a nutritional supplement company, said in prior days’ testimony that he had given $165,000 in gifts and loans to McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in hopes of winning their support for his business.

But the executive’s generosity had limits. He testified on Thursday that he had refused a request by Maureen McDonnell to sell the couple a Range Rover at a discount for their eldest daughter.

Lawyers for McDonnell, a Republican who had been seen as a possible White House contender before the corruption scandal flared, and his wife have contended that accepting the gifts was unseemly but not illegal.

In opening statements earlier this week they said Maureen McDonnell had a “crush” on Williams and sought out his company because she needed attention. The defense contended that by the time of the events in question, the McDonnells’ marriage was falling apart and the two were barely speaking.

McDonnell, 60, and his wife have been charged with 14 counts of corruption and bribery for allegedly taking more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Williams in exchange for supporting his company, Star Scientific Inc, which is now known as Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals.

Williams has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

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 after he chose not to run for re-election. (Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott)

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