McDonnell Corruption Trial Day 5
The corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen resumed in U.S. District Court in Richmond. Jonnie Williams, the government's key witness, was the first person called to the stand.
Friday, August 1st 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
The corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen resumed in U.S. District Court in Richmond Friday. Jonnie Williams, the government's key witness, spent the entire day on the stand, continuing his testimony from Thursday.
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 company's products, mainly the dietary supplement, Anatabloc. The McDonnells face decades in prison if they are convicted.
Jonnie Williams testified the entire day Thursday, offering testimony about the support of Anatabloc by the McDonnells, and gifts and loans he gave the McDonnells. On Thursday the defense let Williams talk about himself in what legal analyst Lloyd Snook says was an effort to humanize Williams.
"The prosecution is OK with the jurors thinking Jonnie Williams is a jerk. That he is a manipulative money grubbing kind of guy. The defense wants to personalize him. It's a switch. The defense wants the jury to see why Maureen McDonnell may have felt warm feelings toward him.” Snook stated.
Friday was another long day for Jonnie Williams as defense attorneys grilled him all day about gifts, loans and his relationship with Maureen McDonnell - including the large number of texts and phone calls between them.
Court began Friday morning with continuing cross examination of Jonnie Williams by William Burck, Maureen McDonnell’s attorney. Williams seemed like a different person on cross examination than he was Thursday. No longer the self-assured and conversational witness, many of his responses were "I can't recall or I don't know."
Williams was questioned about an interview with the FBI and Virginia State Police in January 2013. Williams said he cut the interview short when he was asked to wear a wire. He said he didn’t because he thought he and then-Governor Bob McDonnell were in trouble.
Burck questioned inconsistencies in what Williams told investigators in several interviews about his association with the McDonnells. He presented transcripts from FBI interviews and questioned Williams on how he had changed his story. Williams answered "I do not recall" to several questions. Even with the transcriptions provided, he could not say what was said in conversations with the FBI, including one meeting that happened just earlier this week.
The defense also questioned Williams about his stock dealings and whether he was worried that they could be illegal.
Williams testified about several meetings with Mary-Shea Sutherland, the former chief of staff for the first lady. Williams said she was trying to get a job with Star Scientific. He said he told her to stay with the mansion until the Anatabloc launch. Williams said Shea told him that, "it makes her sick to go to work" at the mansion.
The defense questioned Williams about conversations just between him and Maureen between April 2011 and April 2013. The conversations included emails, 1200 texts and phone calls. Williams claimed they were all business related.
In testifying about the dresses he bought for Maureen in New York, Williams said he "absolutely" bought them in order get access to the governor.
Williams detailed conversations about the
and the gowns he bought for Maureen. In May 2011 there were 10 texts between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. where they had a discussion about obstruction of justice regarding the gowns. In a
to Williams, Maureen alluded to an agreement that Williams daughters should wear those dresses, or the dresses would be donated to charity. Williams said they never had an agreement, the dresses were for Maureen.
A portion of Williams' testimony concentrated in part on his sometimes-racy phone relationship with Maureen McDonnell. Williams testified to an email where the former first lady wrote, “I just felt the earth move, I wasn't having sex.” She was apparently referring to the August 2011 earthquake. This was the only communication between the two that her defense attorney admitted into evidence.
“What the texts or calls are we may never know. They may never be entered as evidence, but they indicate a frequency and a level of familiarity that probably is not normal for a CEO and a first lady of Virginia.” said Charles James Jr., a criminal defense attorney.
Burck finished his cross examination of Williams just before court recessed for lunch. When court resumed Bob McDonnell's attorney, Henry Asbill started his cross examination.
Asbill questioned Williams about his preparation for the trial. Williams testified he prepared for two weeks, but did not review FBI and law enforcement reports. When asked how he knew, on their first meeting, to ask the FBI who the target was, Williams replied he has a lot of lawyers as friends.
The defense spent a large portion of the afternoon grilling Williams over what gifts and loans the governor knew about and when. Williams admitted he did not talk to the governor about the April 2011 New York $20,000 shopping spree. When the defense pointed out that Williams met McDonnell that same night, and asked if they discussed the shopping spree earlier in the day, Williams said they did not. He said he assumed McDonnell knew from the shopping bags but admitted he never told the governor himself.
In reference to the loans, Williams says he doesn't remember when he talked to Bob McDonnell about the loans of $15,000 and $50,000 given to Maureen, but knows he did. Williams said he couldn’t remember if they talked by phone or in person, but he knew he just didn't know exactly when and where.
In talking about McDonnell flying from California in Williams' plane, Williams says he made a pitch for Anatabloc on the ride back. Williams says he let the governor use his plane, as he had let other politicians, but took advantage of the ride to make his pitch. Williams admitted the five hour block of flight time allowed him sole access to the governor months before the shopping spree with Maureen McDonnell at far less the price and aggravation, contradicting William's longstanding argument that he thought he had to take her shopping for access to the governor.
Court adjourned for the day at 4:30 p.m. The trial will resume on Monday with Bob McDonnell's attorney continuing cross examination of Jonnie Williams.