McDonnell Trial Day 20: Former Governor Back on Stand

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Bob McDonnell Bob McDonnell
Maureen McDonnell Maureen McDonnell
Golf bag Williams gave to Bob McDonnell Golf bag Williams gave to Bob McDonnell

After an emotional day of testimony Thursday, former Governor Bob McDonnell was back on the stand Friday in his public corruption trial.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are charged with accepting more than $165,000 from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his products. Their marriage is a key element to the defense, which has suggested the couple couldn't have conspired because they were barely communicating.

McDonnell testified Thursday about his strained marriage before answering questions about thousands of dollars in gifts and loans he and his family received from Williams.

Friday morning McDonnell testified he did not think it was inappropriate to take a $50,000 loan from Jonnie Williams to help cover the ownership costs of vacation rental properties he and his sister owned.   He said he did nothing illegal and testified that he would not have taken a loan if he thought it was corrupting his office.   

McDonnell said Maureen was responsible for initiating the loan from Williams. He says he knew nothing about it, but once he found out, he did not stop the process, he took over the negotiations.  He testified about several phone calls with Williams to work out the terms of the loan. He said he kept handwritten notes on the negotiations for the loan and always expected a contract.

McDonnell testified that initially Williams proposed the deal as a stock transfer to be used as collateral for a loan from a bank.  McDonnell said he consulted stock broker John Piscitelli, who didn't think the arrangement would work.   He said that while they were exploring other options for the loan, Williams sent the check for $50,000 to his sister. McDonnell testified that he was not aware that the check was coming at that point.  He said that Williams didn't ask him for anything in return for the loan and he didn't give him anything.  He said he did not have a conversation with Williams about keeping the loan a secret.

McDonnell said he did not need to disclose it on his personal financial statement.  He said he treated it like any other loan to MoBo, he didn't personally guarantee it so he didn't disclose it.  He said the check was made payable to MoBo Real Estate and, by law, did not need to be reported on his financial statement. He said he sent it to the MoBo accountant and it was declared on the business taxes. He further testified that he paid the loan back with interest.

The defense made motions before the trial that McDonnell's decision not to disclose could not be criminal because it followed banking law. The judge rejected the argument so the jury will make the final decision.

McDonnell says he took a second loan from Williams because it was offered. He testified about asking Jonnie Williams for a $20,000 loan two months after borrowing $50,000. He said Williams had told him that if he needed more money, he should just ask. McDonnell said he did so when he found two vacation rental homes he owned with his sister were still operating in the red. He said there was nothing inappropriate about either loan.  

He testified about stock given to his kids by Maureen for Christmas in 2012. He said it made him angry when Maureen repurchased Star Scientific stock to give to their kids as Christmas gifts. He said she told the kids that the money was from her dad's inheritance. He knew the money was from Williams, but it was a substitute for money he felt he wrongly took from her in 2010. He said he did not correct her in front of the kids. He described the situation as ‘another time she did something and didn't tell me.' He said he told her he didn't appreciate her doing things that affect him, if he has to declare it, he needs to know.

McDonnell testified about the repairs on their home that were done by Jonnie Williams' brother Donnie. He said they were trying to get the property ready so they could rent it. He said Maureen hired Donnie on the recommendation of Williams. He said they intended to pay for the work, they typically pay subcontractors and then pay at the end. He testified that they did pay Donnie when the work was done.

McDonnell testified that he was disappointed that Maureen was speaking in his name. He testified that Maureen wrote in an email “Gov wants to know why nothing has been done on development of studies at VCU”. He said he didn't write that and that he knew his wife made demands on his behalf on two occasions without checking with him.

McDonnell testified about a meeting in March of 2012 where staff claimed he was selling Anatabloc to them. He said he was probably in the process of taking it, and they asked him about it. He told them he was taking it up to five times a day. He said he does not recall if he told them to meet with someone. He said the purpose of the meeting was something completely different, it had nothing to do with Anatabloc.

McDonnell testified he should have disclosed some of the gifts from Williams on a yearly financial disclosure form. He said he should have disclosed a golf bag emblazoned with the Notre Dame logo and two golf outings Williams paid for in 2011. As governor, McDonnell was required to file a yearly disclosure of his income, debts and gifts. McDonnell said that the omissions were not intentional and that he was not trying to keep Williams' gifts hidden from the public.

McDonnell testified he was "darn angry" when he found out state police asked his wife about the couple's relationship to Williams. He said Maureen had been asked to an interview with police in February of last year. Police said they wanted to talk about an investigation into the chef at the governor's mansion for taking food out of the residence.  McDonnell said when he spoke to Maureen after the interview, she was "very upset" and said police asked her about Williams. He said she told him they asked her about stock ownership in the company, loans, and the governor's financial disclosure statements. He testified his second reaction was "one of concern for what they were doing."

Bob McDonnell's attorney finished questioning him Friday afternoon, Maureen's attorney will begin their questioning on Monday and prosecutors will begin their cross examination once her attorneys are finished.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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