McDonnell Corruption Trial Day 8
An FBI forensic computer analyst started off the day on the stand in the public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in Richmond Wednesday. In a 14-count indictment, the McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements products.
Tim Huff, a forensic computer expert for the FBI, had just begun his testimony Tuesday when an alternate juror became ill, prompting U.S. District Judge James Spencer to adjourn court a few minutes early. Prosecutors presented evidence Tuesday that McDonnell concealed one $50,000 loan from Williams by listing the creditor as "medical services" on a state-required annual financial statement.
The start of court was delayed Wednesday morning due to a late juror. When he took the stand Huff testified about metadata showing who entered events into Bob and Maureen McDonnell's schedules.
Dr. John Lazo, a University of Virginia pharmacology researcher, took the stand after Huff finished. He spoke about attending a lunch event at the Executive Mansion with Jonnie Williams and the McDonnells. He testified that Anatabloc was included with the place settings for the luncheon. He said he received a check for $25,000 for UVA and delivered it to the proper person at UVA. He said he was new to Virginia at the time and it meant a lot to him to be invited. Lazo did get the impression that Williams and the governor were friends and McDonnell was behind the product.
After Dr. Lazo testified, Maureen McDonnell's former chief of staff, Mary-Shea Sutherland was called back to the stand.
Sutherland testified that she was constantly getting screamed at by Maureen. She said she received incessant texts and calls, including after hours, and that Maureen yelled at all the staff. She spoke of two instances in the office, where there was so much yelling and screaming from Maureen that the security detail in the next room had to come in and see if she was OK. Sutherland said she spoke to the governor, saying she was angry and concerned about how she was being treated. She said the governor saw she was upset and talked with her about the situation, explaining that Maureen had a difficult year with the death of a parent. Sutherland says she told the former governor that she had two parents die and never treated a person the way Maureen treated the staff.
Sutherland testified about the New York shopping trip. She said that Jonnie Williams insisted on buying her a $1,600 dress, and she said yes to avoid a scene. She said she never wore it and it still has the tags on it. Sutherland said that she didn't tell anyone about who bought the gowns because Maureen wanted to keep things private, saying Maureen was a private person. Photos of all the designer coats, shoes and dresses Williams bought were shown in court for the first time.
Sutherland testified that Williams was a frequent visitor in 2011. She said Maureen never said anything to indicate there was a romantic relationship between them. Sutherland said it did appear the McDonnells were romantically interested in each other. Maureen shared a poem the governor wrote her for Valentines Day 2011. Sutherland said the two tried to have lunch and dinner once a week.
Sutherland testified Williams sent Maureen a yellow dress from Oscar de la Renta. She said Maureen talked of wanting a yellow dress because the governor fell in love with her in yellow. Sutherland said Maureen didn't like it when she tried it on, and Sutherland never saw it again.
Sutherland testified that Maureen told her she was upset over her financial situation, saying she was buried in debt and her credit card was maxed out. Sutherland said she had to foot the bill for Maureen's inauguration gown. She also loaned her $6,000, saying Maureen told her it was to cover stock purchases for her kids.
Sutherland said she told Martin Kent in person about the $15,000 wedding gift, saying she didn't want to be the only staffer to know about it. Sutherland said that Maureen told her that she thought there would be an overage after payments were made to the caterer, so when the refund check came, she took it.
Court recessed for lunch and Mary Shea Sutherland continued her testimony after the break.
On cross examination, Sutherland said she knew Maureen was a screamer before she took the job. She admitted she had called Maureen a "nut bag," and further admitted there were a lot of names she called Maureen.
Sutherland testified that Williams came for impromptu visits to the Executive Mansion. She described Williams' visits as "play dates" with Maureen. She said that she was not with Williams and Maureen all the time. She said they usually met upstairs or in the basement. She was not present for private meetings and doesn't know what was said.
Sutherland testified that Williams approached her about coming to work for him, and allowed her to vent. She says when he saw that she was upset, he told her “You can't fool an old southern boy." She said Williams also complained to her about the late-night texts from Maureen. Williams insisted that she not tell anyone about their meeting, or the possibility she might be hired, until after meeting with the doctors in the mansion.
Sutherland finished testifying Wednesday afternoon and court recessed for the day. The trial will resume Thursday morning. Former mansion director Sarah Scarborough is expected to testify.
The trial is expected to last a total of five weeks. If convicted, Bob and Maureen McDonnell could face decades in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.