McDonnell Trial Day 16: Defense Begins

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Bob McDonnell arriving to court Bob McDonnell arriving to court
Maureen McDonnell arriving to court Maureen McDonnell arriving to court
Janet Kelly Janet Kelly

The defense has started presenting its case in the public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.                 

Prosecutors claim the McDonnells accepted more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements. Williams received immunity for his cooperation with the government.

The jury heard the first defense witnesses Monday as the trial entered its fourth week in U.S. District Court in Richmond. Forty-five witnesses testified for the prosecution. Williams was among them.

Monday the judge announced that another juror has been excused. The judge cited a family emergency, and the juror was replaced by an alternate. Three jurors have been lost so far, leaving one more alternate.

The first witness called Monday was Brenda Chamberlain.  Chamberlain was the bookkeeper for MoBo Real Estate, the company owned by Bob McDonnell and his sister.  She testified that Michael Uncapher, Bob McDonnell's former brother in law, was her contact person initially. She said he didn't do much and was often late in giving her documentation for MoBo Real Estate.

She testified that, in 2013, Bob McDonnell gave her full access to the MoBo account. She said the Starwood Trust loan was not explained to her until after the interview with Maureen McDonnell. She further stated that she wasn't an auditor so she didn't question the individual checks, she just kept the books up to date with what she was given. She said there was no reference to Jonnie Williams on anything.  She also testified that in March 2013 McDonnell asked her to sign a confidentiality agreement. She said she had not been asked to sign one before.

Janet Kelly, who was secretary of the commonwealth under Bob McDonnell and played a role in handing out jobs and appointments, was the next witness called to the stand. She told jurors she wasn't instructed to give preferential treatment to Jonnie Williams. She says she was never asked to give any appointments or jobs to Williams or to executives from his company.

She also testified about working with the governor.  She said that, with trying to get everything done he wanted to during one term, his time in office was stressful for the organization and those who worked with them. She said he rose to the occasion of the position, never yelling, screaming, or putting anyone down.  She said his schedule often included 12 to 16 hour days. She said he tried to set aside family time, but it was difficult. She testified that he was a micromanager, but once he was governor, he realized it was too much to handle so he delegated quite a bit.

She said his goal was to get best and brightest in his appointments, he didn't want "yes" people. Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Hazel was cited as an example. 

Kelly cried on the stand when the questioning turned to former first lady Maureen McDonnell.  She described her as 'difficult', 'demanding' and 'diva-ish.'  She said McDonnell could not handle stress, made mountains out of molehills and had anger issues.  She testified that Mary Shea Sutherland had once told her she was worried the first lady was not normal and may have been suffering from an illness.

Kelly testified that in January 2012 the entire mansion staff wrote a letter, which they were going to deliver to the first lady, threatening to resign en masse. Kelly said she intercepted the letter. She said the letter was not overblown or unfair. Click here to read the letter.

Kelly described Bob McDonnell as a Boy Scout, saying he was honest, and law-abiding, someone who does not seek ulterior motives in people. She testified that she would work with Bob McDonnell again in a heartbeat, but it would be tough due to involvement from Maureen. She said ‘he has some work to do on his marriage.'

Neal Noyes, the former executive director of the Virginia Tobacco Commission took the stand after Kelly was finished testifying. He testified that Bob McDonnell did not request grants from the commission for Williams or Star Scientific. 

Several cabinet secretaries testified Monday afternoon, including former Education Secretary Laura Fornash, Finance Secretary Ric Brown and Commerce Secretary James Cheng. All testified that they did not receive requests to help Star Scientific or Williams. 

Defense attorneys have said Bob McDonnell will testify at some point. They indicated in court papers that Maureen McDonnell probably will not testify. The McDonnells could face decades in prison if convicted. 

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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