McDonnell Corruption Trial Day 4: Williams Testimony Continues
The corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen resumed in federal court Thursday with testimony from Jonnie Williams, the government's key witness.
The corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen resumed in federal court Thursday. Jonnie Williams, the government's key witness, was the first person called to the stand, continuing his testimony from Wednesday.
The McDonnells are accused of taking gifts in return for political favors. In a 14-count indictment, they are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplements company. According to court documents, the gifts included a Rolex watch, designer clothing, golf trips and $15,000 for his daughter's wedding expenses. The McDonnells face decades in prison if they are convicted.
On Wednesday Williams testified that he gave the McDonnells money because it was a business relationship, not because they were friends.
In his extensive time on the stand Thursday morning, Williams offered testimony about the support of Anatabloc by the McDonnells, and gifts and loans he gave the McDonnells.
Williams testified Maureen McDonnell flew to Florida with her assistant and executive detail on Williams' plane for a Anatabloc fundraiser. He paid for them to be at the Ritz Carlton. Researchers and doctors from Johns Hopkins were there for a presentation of studies. Maureen told everyone it was an honor to be there given her background in nutrition and wellness, and she was there to lend support to the company.
Williams said she offered to get Virginia State Police troopers to drive her and Jonnie to every doctor in Virginia to introduce them. Maureen invited everyone to the Executive Mansion for the launch of Anatabloc. Williams also testified that she said she bought stock that day, saying she had missed out before and didn't want to miss out again. He says he warned Maureen to sell the stock and pay the loans.
Williams said it was Maureen’s idea to hold the Anatabloc launch in August 2011, at the Executive Mansion. He said people he hoped would do research attended, including doctors from Virginia, hospitals from Richmond, and government leaders. Governor McDonnell attended the launch at Williams request. When asked why he wanted McDonnell there, he said “So that they know this is important.” He said he thought the governor’s presence helped. Williams said he handed out $25,000 grants for the doctors to prepare applications for studies.
A video from an Anatabloc conference in California was shown in court. The video showed Williams and Maureen making speeches at an event. In one of the speeches, Maureen said she was a long-time friend of Williams and her association with him was through her husband. Williams said that was incorrect; he had only seen the governor maybe six times.
Williams said Maureen was also a special guest in Michigan at a function to get doctors to try and research Star Scientific’s product Anatabloc.
Williams spent hours admitting he gave gift after gift to the McDonnells. The jury examined the infamous Rolex watch, and saw pictures of the expensive places that Williams took them. He testified that he thought buying the watch was a bad idea, saying he shouldn't have to buy things like that to get what he wanted. In court the watch was passed to the jury, where each juror briefly inspected it.
In testifying about a vacation to Smith Mountain Lake, Williams said Maureen asked for his Ferrari to be at the house, stating “it would be nice, we never get to do anything like that.” Williams said he had the Ferrari delivered but asked the children not drive it. When asked what he had given the McDonnells before this meeting, he said he gave them a $50,000 loan, catering, a golf outing, and clothes. He said he didn't give them anything just because they were personal friends, he thought he had to do this to get political favors.
He said he knew he was wrong about giving these gifts, but did it anyway. Williams said he thought it was the only way to get support from the governor for the supplements he promoted for Star Scientific.
Williams testified that Maureen asked him to buy cars for her kids, he says he told Maureen he couldn’t buy a car because it was too much. She asked him to sell her his Range Rover at a discount for her son attending the University of Virginia. Williams testified he said he wouldn’t do that because it was too visible.
Williams testified that Maureen told him that the beach properties were not doing well. He says she asked for a loan and asked if he wanted to buy the properties. He said he agreed to the loan because they were helping him with meetings and introductions.
Williams testified about a February 2012 private meeting with Bob McDonnell about a possible secret transfer of $50,000 in Star Scientific stock. Williams says McDonnell brought up disclosure and reporting rules in the meeting. He testified that he said "I’d just as soon like to keep this quiet." He says the governor replied, "me too." Williams said he finally decided the stock transfer options was too difficult, because it would have to be disclosed - so he told the governor he would just write him a check instead. Williams testified he did not want anyone to know he was helping the governor and he did not tell anyone in the company.
Court recessed for lunch around 1:15. After lunch court resumed with Jonnie Williams continuing to testify. The prosecution questioned Williams for a little more than an hour then turned the witness over to the defense teams for cross examination.
The prosecution presented text messages between Williams and Bob McDonnell regarding stock. Other text messages included pictures related to a chef they shared for a while. Williams testified that his brother helped the McDonnells with work on a home.
The prosecution questioned Williams about conversations with the FBI and why he wasn't honest at first. Williams said he lied when they asked him about the McDonnells, saying he got nothing from them in exchange for gifts. He said he lied because the questions made him believe the governor was in trouble and he was too. Williams admitted he made a mistake by not telling authorities the truth.
In one of the biggest surprises of the day, Williams said he had no romantic relationship with the former first lady and that he never heard her say she had a relationship with him.
Maureen's attorney, William A. Burck began cross examination of Williams around 3:45 p.m. On cross examination the defense invited Williams to talk about himself. He talked at length about business dealings.