McDonnell Corruption Trial Day 13: Virginia Beach Mayor and Banker Testifies About Loans
Virginia Beach Mayor William Sessoms took the stand when the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, resumed in federal court in Richmond.
Virginia Beach Mayor William Sessoms was the first to take the stand Wednesday when the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, resumed in federal court in Richmond.
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting dietary supplements made by his company.
At the start of court, the prosecution told the judge that it will likely rest its case sometime Thursday. U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer said he would send jurors home for the weekend and the defense will begin its case on Monday. The judge said he would hear arguments on motions Friday.
Court began Wednesday with the cross examination of William Sessoms Jr. by John Brownlee, a defense attorney for Bob McDonnell. When court ended Tuesday, Sessoms, the president of TowneBank, was testifying about Bob McDonnell's application to refinance a loan on one of the two beach rental properties that McDonnell and his sister own. McDonnell's initial failure to disclose the Williams loans on bank paperwork is the basis for one of the counts in the indictment.
Wednesday Sessoms testified that loans extended to a limited liability company (LLC), where an individual does not personally guarantee those loans, do not have to be reported on the personal financial statements of its owners. He said unless McDonnell signed a guarantee document, which he did not, he was not legally required to disclose loans extended to MoBo Real Estate Partners LLC - the company he and his sister own - or any loan to his wife. He said if his wife received a loan, it doesn't have to be on his financial statement. That testimony was made despite repeated objections from the prosecution.
Sessoms testified that the loan TowneBank gave to MoBo was based on Bob McDonnell's sister's income, which the bank believed McDonnell's sister could pay. Sessoms said that until 2009, the McDonnells were never late in a payment and never defaulted.
After Sessoms was done testifying, a series of bank officials testified about a 2013 loan application for Bob McDonnell and his sister.
Nanette Bolt, a senior official at the Pentagon Federal Credit Union testified about several interactions she had in securing a loan for the governor. She testified that she took notes over the phone on the governor's request and, because of the sensitive nature of the facts surrounding the first couple's request, she put together the first draft of the application. She said there was no information about Starwood Trust or Jonnie Williams' loans or stocks on the application. She said she sent it to Bob McDonnell and he faxed additional information and a disclosure statement back to her on February 1. She testified there was no information about Williams, stocks or loans in the additional information about stocks or loans from Williams or his company.
Bolt testified that on February 18, which was three days after Maureen McDonnell was interviewed by investigators, Bob McDonnell sent her an amended loan application. The amended application listed Star Scientific stock issued to Maureen McDonnell and two unsecured loans of $50,000 from Jonnie Williams - one to Maureen McDonnell and another to MoBo - and $70,000 from Starwood Trust to MoBo.
On redirect, Bob McDonnell's lawyer elicited testimony about the process of applying for the loan, saying something like "it is not...one document and you're done." Bolt testified that receiving changes on the application and documentation is common until it is accepted.
On redirect, Bolt clarified the application is accepted by the bank before an appraisal and other steps occur.
Court convened for lunch at the end of Bolt's testimony. After the lunch break, Jeffrey Creekmore, a loan officer at Heritage Bank in Chesapeake, took the stand and testified about the process of how his bank initially received the personal financial statement of Governor McDonnell before it was forwarded to Sessoms at TowneBank.
Verizon employee George Floyd was the next witness called to the stand. He testified about phone records between Bob McDonnell and Williams, including a photo of the former governor wearing the Rolex that was sent to Williams. He said Verizon does not keep records of messages sent via Apple's iMessage program.
FBI Special Agent David Hulser was called to the stand next. He testified the FBI conducted 300 interviews and reviewed over 3.5 million documents in the course of its investigation into the McDonnells. Hulser presented slides featuring emails, text messages and calendars to explain, for the first time since witnesses began testifying, an overall timeline of the investigation. He also testified that the first couple had nearly $75,000 in credit card debt when Bob McDonnell took office in January 2010.
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