McDonnell Trial Day 18: Bob McDonnell Takes the Stand

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Former Governor Bob McDonnell leaving court Former Governor Bob McDonnell leaving court
Maureen McDonnell arriving to court Maureen McDonnell arriving to court
J. Allen Kosowsky J. Allen Kosowsky

On day 18 of the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, the courtroom finally heard testimony from Bob McDonnell himself.

The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting dietary supplements made by his company. They could face decades in prison if convicted.

J. Allen Kosowsky, a forensic accountant hired as a defense witness, was the first person to take the stand Wednesday in federal court. 

On Tuesday, Kosowsky testified that the McDonnells and the former governor's sister were financially sound.  The testimony was intended to counter the government's claims that the former first couple and a real estate partnership between Bob McDonnell and his sister were struggling financially. According to prosecutors, that financial desperation helped drive the McDonnells to accept more gifts and loans from Williams.

On Wednesday prosecutors cross-examined Kosowsky. Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that the McDonnells had tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt and that their ability to escape it depended in large part on money from Williams.

Tax advisor Dan Cook also testified Wednesday. Cook said the McDonnells always told him the truth. He testified that the McDonnells' Star Scientific stock and loans from Williams were included in their 2011 taxes.  He said he received information about them prior to the investigation interviews.

Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore was the next witness called to the stand. Haymore testified the former first lady often traveled the state promoting Virginia businesses.   He said he often traveled with Maureen to promote Virginia's wine industry, and sometimes promoting specific companies by name.  He testified that McDonnell never asked him to do anything for Star Scientific or Williams.

James Burke, a Virginia Commonwealth University management consultant, also took the stand. In 2011 Burke was brought in to help Maureen McDonnell with the demands of the office. He said he aimed to end the "drama" among mansion staff and Maureen. Burke said one of his recommendations was that Maureen leave the mansion and live in a private home. He said he also thought Maureen could have anxiety and depression issues and thought she needed counseling, but Bob McDonnell rejected that idea.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m., former Governor Bob McDonnell took the stand in his own defense.  The former governor's lawyers have argued Maureen McDonnell acted largely on her own to promote Anatabloc, a tobacco-based anti-inflammatory. 

McDonnell testified he got an inkling soon after his election in 2008 that Maureen had reservations.  McDonnell said that he could tell she was not as happy as he was about his election and that she was upset and concerned about her new role as first lady. He said it was when he took a call from President Barack Obama that he realized his life, and the life of his family, was about to change.

McDonnell appeared comfortable on the stand. He talked a lot about his life, frequently making direct eye contact with members of the jury. He testified about having a difficult time raising money during his campaigns for attorney general and later for governor.

McDonnell talked a lot about his campaigns and contributions received for them. He said he lives by the principle "if you can't take somebody's money and be willing to vote against their interest the next day then you don't belong in politics.”

McDonnell testified that campaigns and political responsibilities took a toll on time spent with his family. He also said over the years, many donors become friends.  During the defense's questioning the point was made that Virginia has no limits on the amount a donor can give, as long as it is disclosed.

McDonnell told jurors that Jonnie Williams did not get any special treatment from his administration. McDonnell testified that Williams got little more than routine access.

Court wrapped up for the day around 5:30 p.m. Bob McDonnell is expected to continue his testimony about his marriage when court resumes Thursday morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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