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Star witness back on stand in Virginia ex-governor's corruption trial
August 4, 2014 / 2:40 PM / in 3 years

Star witness back on stand in Virginia ex-governor's corruption trial

RICHMOND, Va., Aug 4 (Reuters) - The federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell heads into a second week on Monday with the businessman who gave gifts and loans to McDonnell and his wife back on the witness stand.

Jonnie Williams said in three days of testimony last week that he had offered McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, $165,000 in gifts and loans to gain help for Star Scientific Inc, a dietary supplement maker that Williams once served as chief executive.

McDonnell, 60, and his wife are charged with 14 counts of corruption and bribery for allegedly accepting the gifts and loans in exchange for supporting Williams’ former company, now known as Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals.

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.

Maureen McDonnell’s lawyers said at the start of the trial that the couple’s marriage had been unraveling when they accepted gifts from Williams and that she had a “crush” on Williams. That contention and allegations that the McDonnells’ marriage was fraying are a possible defense against conspiracy charges.

Williams has testified that he gave the former governor a Rolex watch worth upwards of $7,000 and took his wife on a $20,000 shopping spree in New York in a bid to persuade them to help promote his products.

Williams has insisted that the relationship was strictly business. Defense attorneys have tried to distance the former governor from Williams, saying the interaction was primarily between him and Maureen McDonnell.

Williams was 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 gubernatorial term ended in January. (Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bill Trott)

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