McDonnell Trial Day 22: Prosecution Concludes Cross Examination of Bob McDonnell
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell faced more questions from a prosecutor in his public corruption trial in federal court in Richmond Tuesday.
Tuesday marked the 22nd day of the trial and McDonnell's fifth day on the witness stand. He and his wife, Maureen, are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.
There's contention about whether the McDonnells suffered financial distress. Prosecutors say debt and increased credit card bills created a motive that caused the McDonnells to allegedly trade loans and gifts for political favors. The defense has also suggested that the McDonnells' marriage was so broken that they barely spoke to each other, let alone joined in a gifts-for-favors conspiracy.
Former governor McDonnell came out swinging on his second day of cross examination. Instead of the one word answers he gave Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry on Monday, now he is challenging some of Dry's assumptions as unrealistic.
Prosecutors allege that Williams was not so much a personal friend to McDonnell as he was a source of cash to the McDonnells, who carried large personal debts. Throughout the day during cross examination, Dry pointed out numerous documents and emails where McDonnell misspelled Williams' first name as 'Johnnie' until very late in their association. Dry suggested friends would know how to spell each other's names. McDonnell acknowledged the error but remained adamant that he considered Williams a friend. McDonnell testified that he provided nothing more than routine political courtesies to Williams.
Dry questioned McDonnell on the timing and communications related to gifts and loans from Williams. He questioned him about the letter onAnatabloc studies that Williams sent to McDonnell in June 2011. McDonnell testified that Williams never asked for help with the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University. He testified he had hundreds of business proposals from other businessmen.
When Dry asked him if the Williams situation seemed unique, and asked if others gave McDonnell loans or gifts, McDonnell said Dry was mistaken if he was suggesting McDonnell got the $50,000 loan for MoBo Real Estate in order to get Williams' phone calls returned. Dry suggested McDonnell purposefully avoided disclosure of loans from Williams by directing him to write the checks to MoBo Real Estate instead of himself. McDonnell responded the loans were needed for operations of the company so writing checks to that company made sense.
McDonnell said that Maureen "misled" him on the sale and repurchasing of Star Scientific stock, but when Dry suggested McDonnell should have opened Maureen's mail to find out the truth, McDonnell responded he respected her privacy.
McDonnell has consistently said operating his family's realty company, MoBo Real Estate, at a deficit of $40,000 a year and relying on loans from other people did not signal financial distress. But Tuesday, prosecutors showed he said virtually the opposite about economics while he was governor. After several minutes of questioning McDonnell on MoBo finances and loans, Dry played a clip from Fox News' Sean Hannity show featuring the Governor Bob McDonnell talking about how he reduced Virginia's deficit. In the video McDonnell said it's like balancing check book, "You can't spend any more than you have for any period of time or you go broke."
The prosecution continued to argue that many of the the circumstances in this case are too coincidental to be simply circumstantial. Dry pointed out that, six days after the $50,000 MoBo check was deposited, the governor used Williams' plane to fly back from Florida, where he had been with Williams. Three days after that, McDonnell pulled out a bottle of Anatabloc at a healthcare discussion with employees. McDonnell acknowledged that it was possible he suggested his staff meet with someone from Star Scientific about Anatabloc, but he said he didn't remember everything he said at the meeting.
The prosecution's cross examination of Bob McDonnell ended around 3:45 p.m. Defense attorney Henry Asbill began redirect examination at that time. On Monday the prosecution suggested that the McDonnell's marriage was intact by showingpictures of Bob McDonnell holding hands with Maureen as recently as May. But on questioning from his own attorneys, McDonnell said he didn't receive all of the facts from the prosecution until 45 days ago and that was when he became fully aware of his wife's many calls to Williams. He has arrived and left court separately from his wife since the beginning of the trial.
McDonnell ended his fifth day on the witness stand by emphatically denying all charges in his public corruption case. He acknowledged using poor judgment but responded with a firm "no" when McDonnell's lawyer asked if he risked his political future and his family by doing what he's accused of in the 14-count indictment.
After five days, Bob McDonnell concluded his testimony in this case. His defense team says it will call one more witness, expected to be his former secretary. Maureen McDonnell's defense team estimates that it will take five or six hours to present its case.
The case is expected to go to the jury before Friday. It is even possible a verdict could be reached before Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.