Aide to ex-Va. 1st lady: No signs of marital woes

Aide to ex-Va. 1st lady: No signs of marital woes

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Aide to ex-Va. 1st lady: No signs of marital woes

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by Associated Press

WVEC.com

Posted on August 6, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 6 at 2:26 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The woman who served as chief of staff to Virginia's former first lady said Wednesday that she never saw any hint of a romantic relationship between her boss and a wealthy businessman.
   
Mary-Shea Sutherland testified in the public corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, that the couple's marriage seemed solid. She said Maureen McDonnell even let her read a "lovely" poem her husband had written to her for a special occasion in 2011.
   
Prosecutors asked Sutherland about the McDonnells' relationship to counter a defense assertion that the union was on the rocks, and that Maureen McDonnell developed a crush on former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams. That claim in last week's opening statements suggests a defense that the McDonnells could not have conspired in a gifts-for-favors scheme because they were not communicating.
   
Williams, testifying under immunity for the government, also said this week that his relationship with Maureen McDonnell was not romantic.
   
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and secret loans from former Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplements company's products, primarily the anti-inflammatory Anatabloc. They could face decades in prison if convicted.
   
Sutherland portrayed working for Maureen McDonnell as a hellish experience, saying she was that target of frequent angry outbursts. At least twice, she said, the governor's security officers overheard the yelling and checked on Sutherland to see if she was all right, she said.
   
She recalled one "particularly ugly day at the mansion" when Maureen McDonnell's ire was directed at another staffer, leaving Sutherland so upset she went to see the governor's chief of staff about it. She ran into Bob McDonnell himself, and he could see she was upset and invited her into his office to talk.
   
Sutherland said the governor "was very kind" and asked her to understand that his wife had a tough time trying to get used to her new role and that her father had recently died.
   
"I pushed back a little," Sutherland said. She told McDonnell that she, too, had recently lost both parents "and I never treated anyone like that."
   
Sutherland said her boss also told her that she and the governor "were buried in debt," bolstering the government's claim that the McDonnells were financially desperate. She said she used her credit card to buy inaugural attire for Maureen McDonnell, whose own card "was maxed out."
   
That was only after aides to the governor nixed the idea of allowing Williams to buy an inaugural dress, which Sutherland and other witnesses have said angered Maureen McDonnell. The first lady-to-be told Williams she would take "a rain check," witnesses have said - and she cashed it in with a Manhattan shopping spree in 2011 financed by Williams. The haul from that excursion to high-end stores was about $20,000 in designer clothing and accessories.
   
Sutherland was along on that trip, and Williams bought her a dress too. The never-worn dress was introduced into evidence with the $1,600-plus price tag still attached.
   
According to Sutherland, she initially resisted Williams' offer but he wore her down.
   
"He said, 'I'm a father of two daughters and when I buy for one I like to buy for the other,'" Sutherland said.

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