McDonnell Corruption Trial Day 9
Sarah Scarbrough, the former governor's mansion director, was the first witness on the stand in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen Thursday. Scarbrough was waiting in the wings when court was adjourned Wednesday.
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement products. Williams testified under immunity that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells only because he wanted their help. Defense lawyers have said Bob McDonnell will testify, but that won't happen until much later in a trial that is expected to last at least until the end of the month.
Scarbrough started her testimony Thursday by saying that the McDonnells seemed like a happy, loving couple. She told the FBI the governor seemed to "worship the ground Maureen walked on." She said the McDonnells seemed affectionate to each other. She said that at all the events the governor would put his arm around Maureen, and say something sweet about her. Scarborough identified a photo of Bob McDonnell kissing his wife on the cheek as one example of their common public displays of affection.
Scarbrough testified that she told the FBI that she felt Jonnie Williams had an "ulterior motive" that, she clarified at trial, was related to business and not personal. She said, contrary to the relationship between the first couple, Maureen and Williams did not seem affectionate with each other.
Scarbrough testified that she kept a log of all the gifts the first lady received. She said Maureen was not happy when she learned about it, saying Maureen was not pleased because she was not a state official. Scarbrough testified she heard about the shopping spree and the $15,000 gift from Mary-Shea Sutherland around the time Maureen received them but did not know about the $50,000 loan or the golf trips.
Scarbrough talked about the mansion lunch event with Jonnie Williams. When testifying for the prosecution, she testified that Maureen requested the event. She said that prior to the lunch, Anatabloc was placed on each table, at each place setting by Maureen and Williams. She said the product placement was unusual, it had not been done before.
On cross examination, Scarbrough confirmed that she told the FBI that she believed the governor was "in denial" about Maureen's mental capacity. She said she felt Maureen did not want to be the first lady. Scarbrough described her as spoiled, saying that she screamed and yelled. She also confirmed that she and the the governor never discussed their personal finances or respective marriages with one another.
Scarbrough also said she thought it was inappropriate for a married man like Williams to be buying personal items for a woman because they were both married to other people. Scarbrough said Williams and Maureen had an inappropriate relationship.
She further testified that Maureen was sneaky and sometimes used the governor's name, without his permission, to get things done. As an example, Scarbrough said Maureen misrepresented that the governor wanted Anatabloc in gift bags on place settings at an event at the governor’s mansion. Scarbrough said the governor's role in planning events is extremely limited: he essentially shows up, says his piece, and leaves.
Scarbrough testified about how events with other companies compared to the lunch featuring Anatabloc. She said there were several other events where people from different corporations and organizations, like Reynold Packing Group and Forbes Magazine, would meet and talk with the governor without prior appointments or be honored with events at the governor’s mansion. She said Williams wasn't the only one.
After Scarbrough's testimony concluded, Dr. Patevio Caturegli from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and then Dr. Frank Crantz, an endocrinologist in private practice from Potomac, Maryland, were called to the stand. Both testified about how they met Williams, and talked about Anatabloc, saying they were intrigued by it. They said it had been tested on rats and had been on the market a while without negative effects.
After Dr. Crantz testified, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Hazel took the stand. He said that after meeting with Williams he was skeptical of Anatabloc. Hazel is the first person at the Department of Health who referred to Williams as the tic tac man. He said he came up with the name because Anatabloc looked like Tic Tac mints and came in a container that looked like a Tic Tac container. He also testified he avoided Williams, claiming he received free samples of Anatabloc from Williams but did not declare it on Hagel's disclosures because he thought the dietary supplement was "valueless."
Hazel also said the product was “unbelievable” and “too good to be true.” He also heard that Anatabloc had “issues” with the Federal Trade Commission. Hazel testified “to say I was skeptical was an understatement.”
Hazel said that he had met with Jonnie Williams before the governor ever suggested it and dismissed Williams’ product. Hazel said that sometime later, around May 9, 2011, the governor asked Hazel to meet Williams, saying “Williams is a very good friend of my [McDonnell’s] wife.”
Hazel said there was nothing pending for Hazel after these meetings. Williams did not ask for anything.
Hazel said he had been asked to sit next to Williams at the governor’s gathering in Bristol, Virginia, at the Homestead. Hazel declined, saying “ I thought it would be a long evening. I didn’t need to get the Anatabloc sale again.”
Finally, Hazel testified about a February 29, 2012, health care reception his department planned at the governor’s mansion. Hazel spearheaded the guest list and then later heard “Maureen McDonnell was adding names” and those names turned out to be people affiliated with Star Scientific.
Hazel testified he was not happy Jonnie Williams and the others from Star Scientific were included. He said “people from Star Scientific are not health care leaders in Virginia” and they did not contribute to public policy in Virginia health care.
It was during the evening of that reception, Hazel said, that Williams asked Hazel to help him get the product tested. At that point Hazel told Williams you “need to speak with people who do that directly...there is a process.” Hazel said Williams wanted Hazel to contact UVA and VCU to do testing.
As with Williams, Hazel said he was asked by the governor to meet with other CEO and without much notice. As with others, Hazel said other companies were honored at the governor’s mansion.
Then Hazel said he could not recall any other CEO or company being added to guest lists for health care events the way Williams was during the February 29, 2012 event. He said, “I cannot recall there being a situation quite like this one...there was never anything quite like this...there was a unique level of involvement at the mansion.” Attorneys who represent the McDonnells asked very few questions before the judge dismissed him from the stand.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.