Defense: 1,200 calls, texts between Maureen McDonnell and Williams over 2 years

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by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on August 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 1 at 5:11 PM

RICHMOND -- During day 5 of the corruption trial against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, new details emerged about the relationship between the former first lady and wealthy businessman Jonnie Williams. 

Defense attorneys introduced phone records that show the former first lady and Jonnie Williams exchanged more than 1,200 texts and phone calls over a nearly two-year period.  Some of those exchanges happened in the early morning hours.   In the same period, Williams exchanged 60 texts and calls with Bob McDonnell.

Defense attorneys also presented emails from Maureen to Williams, including one after an earthquake in 2011 that read, "I just felt the earth move and I wasn't having sex!"

Live coverage of McDonnell trial
           
Williams told jurors the phone records are wrong, but didn’t dispute the email.

Most of the details brought to light by defense attorneys that Williams testified were either wrong or he didn’t remember.
 
Bill Burck, Maureen McDonnell’s lead defense attorney, asked Williams during cross examination Friday if he recalled making a variety of statements to investigators in meetings that took place in January, May and September of 2013.
               
Williams testified that he didn’t remember what he said in those meetings, even after he read a transcript of the meeting.
               
Williams also testified that he didn't remember what he said in a meeting he had with prosecutors in June or a meeting that took place this past Sunday.
 
During his testimony Friday, Williams also said he was asked by FBI agents to wear a wire when talking with Bob McDonnell in February 2013 but he declined.

From the moment he took the stand, Williams sought to paint his relationship with the McDonnells as strictly business. Saying first he only had a ‘business relationship’ with the former first couple and eventually changing his characterization of his relationship as a ‘business friendship.’
 
The former governor, who Williams has accused of accepting his bribes on the stand, said Friday morning he thought the truth would come out today.
 
"I’ve got tremendous lawyers. I think cross examination is important and I look forward to the truth coming out as cross examination continues on," McDonnell said.

Loan Deal

No matter what he called it, Williams said he only gave the McDonnells gifts, loans and cash worth more than $150,000 in exchange for the couple promoting a dietary supplement his company was trying to market.

“It was a bad mistake,” Williams said of writing two checks totaling $70,000 in loans to the former governor to help finance two rental houses in Virginia Beach. “I should never have written the checks.”

Williams testified that he and McDonnell had first wanted to do the loan deal with 50,000 shares of stock in Star Scientific, the company that Williams founded. That deal fell apart, Williams told the jury, because the men could not find a way to get around SEC reporting requirements involved with a stock transaction.

“I said, 'I’d just as soon keep this between us and no one know about this' and he said, 'So would I,'” Williams recounted of a February 29, 2012 conversation with McDonnell inside a conference room in the Patrick Henry Building.

“I didn’t want anyone to know I was helping the governor financially with his problems while he was helping me financially,” Williams said.

In addition to the loans, prosecutors also asked Williams to discuss the $6,000 Rolex watch he bought for Maureen McDonnell to give to her husband for Christmas, several expensive dinners and outings with the McDonnells—including two occasions where he bought a bottle of cognac worth at least $3,000—and a period of time where he said Maureen expected him to buy a car for one of her daughters. Williams said he declined to buy the car, though, because it was too visible.

FBI Investigation

The alleged agreement between the wealthy businessman and his powerful friends began to fall apart in early Spring of 2012.

Williams said it was around that time when he was paid an unannounced visit by two agents from the FBI and Virginia State Police at his home in Florida.

Williams said he agreed to talk with the investigators without an attorney that day. He told the jury that much of what he told them was a lie.

“What did you tell the law enforcement agents when they asked if you got anything in exchange for gifts to the McDonnells,” asked prosecutor Michael Dry. “I was not truthful and I told them I didn’t receive anything,” Williams responded.

Ultimately, though, Williams said he did tell the truth to investigators in exchange for immunity.

Prosecutor Michael Dry asked Williams about three different agreements he made with the government in exchange for his cooperation. First, was a temporary agreement which said prosecutors would not use anything he told them in a meeting in exchange for truthful information. The second agreement was signed on July 1, 2013 and gave Williams total immunity from charges related to his gifts to the McDonnells in exchange for his truthful testimony. The third agreement came just several weeks ago and expanded his immunity agreement to cover an unrelated securities investigation in addition to the case involving the McDonnells.

Defense attorneys have signaled they will use those agreements to question Williams’ credibility.

Cross Examination

In opening statements on Tuesday, Bill Burck, Maureen McDonnell’s defense attorney, said Jonnie Williams had given nine different versions of his story to prosecutors.

But Burck did not ask Williams about any of that in the nearly two hours he had Williams on the stand late Thursday afternoon.

Instead, Burck spent nearly an hour asking Williams to recount his entire business career. During the monologue, Williams said he had started five successful companies from the ground up. Burck asked the wealthy businessman to state his net worth but Williams declined.

“I don’t care to answer that question unless I have to under the law,” Williams told Burck. The defense attorney told him he could force him to answer but that he would not.

Burck turned his questions for Williams towards his interactions with the McDonnells towards the very end of the day, asking in one question if Williams was 100 percent sure the former governor helped his company because of the gifts and loans he gave them. Williams answered yes.

“I loaned the money and I got the meetings,” Williams said, referring to meetings with one of McDonnell’s cabinet secretaries.

Accusations Against Maureen

Burck will also have to defend his client against a claim made on the stand by Williams on Thursday.  Williams testified that Maureen lied in a note she left in a box of expensive clothes at his Goochland home.

Maureen McDonnell returned a box of designer clothes that Williams had purchased for her on a shopping spree in New York City. Williams said he came home one day to find the box on his kitchen counter some time after his first interview with federal investigators.

Included in the box was a hand-written note from Maureen that said she hoped Williams would either give the clothes to his daughter or donate the items to be auctioned off for charity as the two had discussed.

Williams told jurors the two had never talked about Maureen returning the clothes.

“It was a sinking feeling, it was like ‘oh, no’,” Williams said when he opened the box and saw the letter. “I sat down in a chair in the den and read this letter. This letter is a fabrication,” he said.

Williams’ testimony resumes at 9:30 a.m.

Reporter Nick Ochsner will be in the courtroom. Follow him on Twitter @13NickOchsner for updates and look for a live report on 13News Now at Noon and tonight on 13News Now starting at 5.

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