McDonnell Corruption Trial Day 6: Williams Testimony Concludes
The prosecution's key witness was back on the stand Monday in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, at the federal courthouse in Richmond. The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for helping promote his company's products.
Williams is testifying under immunity. Last week, he testified that he and the McDonnells had a business relationship and were not personal friends. Defense attorneys sought to contradict that claim by noting that Williams and Maureen McDonnell exchanged more than 1,200 text messages and phone calls in less than two years.
Williams was back on the stand Monday for cross-examination by Bob McDonnell's attorney, Henry Asbill. The defense presented documents that appear to contradict Williams’ previous testimony about loans made to the McDonnells. Williams testified last week that there was an agreement between he and Bob McDonnell to keep things quiet about the loans. But the defense presented evidence that showed that Williams spoke to various people about the loans, as did Bob McDonnell. A paper trail shows McDonnell asking to talk with attorneys about loans for MoBo Realty, which he and his sister own.
Williams has been adamant that he gave the McDonnells the loans and gifts in order to gain access to them to promote Star Scientific's’ products. He testified that he was working all the times that he was with the McDonnells. A portion of his time on the stand Monday was spent on what he believed he received, month by month, in return for loans and gifts to the McDonnells. Under cross examination, Williams admitted that Star Scientific received no money, contracts or checks from Virginia.
When asked if it was difficult pretending to be personal friends with people he only had a business relationship with, Williams said he didn’t give money or gifts to personal friends. But, a personal friend, B.J. Haynes, was also brought up during testimony. Williams admitted he gave Haynes many gifts when his kids got married, including $200,000 because he had been "helpful."
The defense asked Williams about a call Bob McDonnell made to Williams’ father for his 80th birthday. Williams at first said the call was very personal and then said he thought he had done enough to warrant asking Maureen for a call from Governor McDonnell. Williams says he sent a message to Bob McDonnell thanking him for making the call. The message said in part, “You made an old man very happy - anything I can do for your family, I will.” Williams said he feels McDonnell only called his father because of his gifts. Williams testified it cost him approximately $180,000 for the governor to make that call. The defense noted it seemed to be very personal for a business relationship.
The defense questioned Williams about his immunity deals with prosecutors. Williams said he did not fully understand the details and does what his attorney tells him. He stated, “be truthful and I’m OK, if I’m not, I’m in trouble.” The government initially gave Williams a narrow immunity deal that only included public corruption but later expanded Williams' immunity to three years of potential securities crimes and crimes involving Starwood Trust and other family trusts. According to exhibits presented in court, the checks for the $50,000 loan to Maureen McDonnell and the $15,000 for catering of Cailin McDonnell's wedding were from the Starwood Trust. Asbill suggested Williams would say anything on the stand to keep himself out of trouble. Williams replied, “I’m going to tell you the truth.”
The defense questioned Williams about six civil suits pending against him and Star Scientific. Williams said they were either settled or close to being settled. The defense also asked about the marketing for Anatabloc, the use of the term 'drug' versus 'supplement,' and how that was tied to any of the suits. During this line of questioning, Williams said the first rule of business is to stay in business. The defense asked if the second rule to to stay out of jail. Williams told the court no businessman wants to go to jail.
Williams admitted he never received state contracts, visits from McDonnell to Star Scientific headquarters, or money from the state.
Williams said he had no idea that the McDonnells' marriage was "complicated." At the end of the examination, McDonnell's attorney said, "what you did wrong was misjudge my client's integrity." The cross examination ended with the court sustaining an objection from the prosecution to that statement.
Shortly before noon, the defense finished its cross examination of Williams. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry began redirect of Williams around 12:30 p.m.
Earlier in the day a Rolex watch was brought up. Among the gifts Bob McDonnell received was a Rolex watch purchased by Williams and given to the governor by his wife for Christmas 2012. Williams received a text message that Christmas Eve with a photo of a smiling McDonnell showing off the timepiece. When questioned about the picture earlier in the day, Williams said, "My first thought was I was scared to death...If it shows up in the nightly news I have a problem."
Williams says the photo was texted to him in response to a picture of a chef he sent to McDonnell. However, the photo does not appear on the documentary log from his phone. On redirect Dry suggested that the missing texts may be a technical glitch that was common with iPhone logs.
Dry asked whether Williams and Maureen McDonnell had any intimate contact. Williams again denied any intimate or sexual relationship. Williams also said Maureen never told him her marriage was on the rocks, and he saw no signs that it was.
Williams also testified that the governor never told him to stop giving gifts and if he had, he would have stopped.
Last week, defense attorneys noted that Williams and Maureen had exchanged text messages and phone calls more than 1,200 times in less than two years, suggesting that the relationship between them was not strictly business as Williams has said. Dry put that number in context by mentioning Monday that during the same period Williams made or received about 109,000 calls and texts.
Jonnie Williams finished testifying around 12:30. After returning from the lunch break the prosecutor David Harbach called Phillip Cox to the stand. Cox was former Governor Bob McDonnell's campaign manager, and is currently the executive director of the Republican Governors Association. He was part of the Opposition Virginia PAC in the fall of 2009.
Cox testified that Williams wanted Bob McDonnell to tweet about Anatabloc. Cox says he nixed the idea, saying “The governor should not Twitter about a product launch.”
According to Cox, when he heard Williams wanted to buy Maureen’s inaugural gown, he told the governor it was a bad idea. He said he didn’t know what the laws were, but it didn’t look good. Cox said Maureen sent him an email about it on Christmas Eve, 2009. In the email, which Cox described as an 'insane rant,' Maureen questioned his loyalty and whether he had her and Bob’s best interest in mind. He said he did not actually send a reply to the email, although he drafted several.
Cox testified about a January 2012 trip to South Carolina to join GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. McDonnell was being mentioned as a possible Romney running mate. He said Maureen unexpectedly brought Williams to an airport conference room in South Carolina where Bob McDonnell was interviewing with national reporters. Cox said Maureen began to request that Williams meet with Mitt Romney and Cox said he got Williams and Maureen out of the room quickly.
He also testified that he witnessed Maureen McDonnell try to pitch Anatabloc to Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann. Cox said they were on a bus when he heard Maureen tell her that Anatabloc could potentially cure multiple sclerosis, which Ann Romney has. Cox says he intervened in the conversation and changed the subject. He described Maureen’s conversation with Ann Romney as a "train wreck."
"I was horrified," Cox said. "I didn't think it sort of showed the governor in a great light."
Cox testified that he had concerns about Williams and warned Bob McDonnell about him. On the stand Monday he said he believes Williams is a "snake oil salesman" and he didn’t know why he was hanging around or what he wanted.
Cox testified he was unaware of many of the gifts and loans the McDonnells accepted from Williams until he read about them in the newspaper.
Monica Block, a former scheduler for Bob McDonnell, was the last person to take the stand Monday. Court adjourned for the day around 5:30 p.m. Block is expected to continue testifying Tuesday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.