Testimony begins in McDonnell corruption trial

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WVEC.com

Posted on July 29, 2014 at 10:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 29 at 11:23 PM

RICHMOND -- Testimony began Tuesday afternoon in the federal corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen.

 

The former first couple is accused of doing favors for a wealthy Virginia businessman in exchange for more than $150,000 in cash and gifts.

 

A federal grand jury indicted Bob and Maureen McDonnell on 14 charges, including honest-services wire fraud, obtaining property under color of official right, making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding.

 

Prosecutors laid out their case against the couple in opening statements Tuesday morning, painting the pair as cash-strapped and greedy.

 

The McDonnells are accused of taking the gifts and cash from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific, a company that manufactures nutritional supplements.

 

Williams is the prosecution’s star defense, after cutting a deal with the government that protects him from charges in connection with the gifts he gave the McDonnells and in a separate case involving the secret sale of his company’s stock in exchange for $10 million.

 

Defense attorneys for both Bob and Maureen McDonnell spent much of their time attacking Williams’ credibility.

 

An attorney for Maureen McDonnell, Bill Burck, said there have been nine different versions of Williams’ story since federal investigators first questioned him about his gifts to the former first couple.

 

The attorney who spoke on behalf of the former governor, John Brownlee, said Maureen McDonnell grew to hate her husband by mid-2011, when prosecutors allege the two began conspiring to execute their fraud scheme.

 

Bob McDonnell’s attorney also said the former governor will take the stand to testify in his own defense. Part of that testimony, jurors were told, will include intimate, personal details of how the McDonnells’ marriage fell apart.

 

The former governor’s family life came under further scrutiny Tuesday afternoon when his daughter, Cailin McDonnell Young took the stand.

 

Young and her husband accepted a $15,000 check from Williams to help pay for their wedding reception in 2012. Prosecutors allege the money was a gift to her dad that went unreported on his annual disclosure forms.

 

But Young pushed back on that accusation, saying her dad had little to do with planning the wedding other than writing two checks to pay caterer.

 

Young said she met Williams when she visited the Governor’s Mansion one night while Williams and his wife, Celeste, were having dinner with the McDonnells. After meeting her at the dinner, Young testified, Williams told Maureen McDonnell that he was impressed with her and wanted to help pay for her wedding reception.

 

At one point in the testimony, Young broke down in tears on the stand after prosecutors asked her to review pictures from her wedding day.

 

Young said the controversy surrounding Williams’ financial gift has cast a black cloud over memories of her wedding and said it is not a happy event to look back on.

 

The former governor’s daughter also said she hardly ever talked with her father while he was governor. According to Young, it would take McDonnell days to return phone calls and she had to schedule an appointment to see her dad weeks in advance if she ever wanted to spend time with him.

 

McDonnell acknowledged that Tuesday’s revelations were painful to hear as he left court for the day but said he thought the defense had a positive day.

 

He also said he loves his children very much.

 

As Bob McDonnell left the courthouse surrounded by a mob of reporters, Maureen slipped out and walked the other way. She remained silent when asked if she still loved her husband but had tears streaming down her face as she walked.

 

The day’s testimony wrapped up with Jonnie Williams’ longtime personal assistant, Jerri Fulkerson, still on the stand.

 

During her testimony, prosecutors introduced a ledger entry that documented a loan Williams made to McDonnell.

 

The couple is accused of lying about the loan on subsequent mortgage applications.

 

Testimony is set to continue on Wednesday. Reporter NickOchsner will be in the courtroom. Follow him on Twitter for updates @13NickOchsner.

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