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Star Witness Returns to Stand in McDonnell Trial

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia bureau chief Julie Carey reports on Jonnie Williams final day testifying at the McDonnell corruption trial. (Courtroom sketches by Bill Hennessy) (Published Monday, Aug 4, 2014)

    Testimony from the prosecution's key witness in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, concluded Monday.

    The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for helping promote his company's products. They could face decades in prison if convicted.

    Testifying under immunity, Williams returned to the stand Monday morning for cross-examination by the defense. Bob McDonnell's lawyer, Henry Asbill, continued to call into question whether Williams was telling the truth about his dealings with the governor.

    One focus: The $50,000 check written from Williams to Mobo Realty in March 2012.

    Williams has testified that during a meeting with McDonnell in the Patrick Henry Building, the governor wanted to avoid any paper trail, and they discussed the possibility of providing access to money through a stock transfer arrangement.

    Said Williams: "I said I'd just as soon keep this between us and do this with a handshake.... I said I have disclosures issues and he said I have my own."

    But Asbill challenged whether Williams was being truthful, pointing out that right after the meeting, the governor contacted his stockbroker.

    "Obviously my client brought the stockbroker into the mix," said Asbill.

    "He did bring the stockbroker in," agreed Williams. He said he ultimately decided to simply write a check. "I said, 'This is too much trouble. It's easier to write you a check.'"

    Asbill also challenged Williams' contention that he was writing checks to the McDonnells to get help with his company, Star Scientific, and its nutritional supplement Anatabloc.

    "Please tell me one single thing my client did for you or your company after you gave the $50,000 loan to Mobo," Asbill said.

    Williams was unable to cite a specific example of something he got from the governor in the months following the check delivery. Asked if he received any state grants or money from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Williams replied, "No."

    But he pointed to a gathering of health care leaders at the governor's mansion, where Williams was permitted to invite anyone he wanted for a discussion about Anatabloc.

    "That was a very significant evening, to have that sort of thing happen for my company,'' he said.

    A photo of McDonnell holding up a gifted Rolex watch also came into play again Monday.

    Williams has testified that the governor texted the photo to him at Christmas 2012, and that the text was an acknowledgment that Bob McDonnell knew Williams had purchased the watch for Maureen McDonnell to give to her husband.

    But Asbill also poked holes in that testimony, calling up Williams' phone records that show no texts from Bob McDonnell the night Williams said he received the photo.

    Asbill concluded his cross examination with a jab at Williams. Speaking over the prosecutor's objection and the judge sustaining the objection, he said, "What you did wrong was to misjudge [Bob McDonnell's] integrity. What he did wrong was to misjudge you."

    Williams also testified that he never had any physical relationship with Maureen McDonnell and never witnessed or heard from the first lady about any tension between the McDonnells.

    To further make the point, the prosecution showed two photos of the McDonnells at public events. They were holding hands in one, and Bob McDonnell was kissing his wife on the cheek in the other.

    "I didn't know Mrs. McDonnell had any interest in me until this past week," he said. He added that she never expressed any romantic interest.

    Following Williams’ testimony, one of Bob McDonnell's former advisers testified he was on the campaign trail with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, when Maureen McDonnell tried to push Anatabloc on Ann Romney, suggesting it could help her multiple sclerosis.

    "I was horrified," Phil Cox said. “It was a train wreck."

    Cox said he cut off the conversation.

    He also testified he faced Maureen McDonnell's wrath in 2009. When he found out Jonnie Williams wanted to buy her an Oscar de la Renta dress for the inauguration. He nixed the idea and she sent him a scathing email on Christmas Eve.

    "It was an insane rant of an email,” Cox said. “Coming on Christmas Eve, it made me angry."

    Last week, Williams testified that he and the McDonnells had had a business relationship and were not personal friends. Defense attorneys sought to contradict that claim by noting that Williams and Maureen McDonnell exchanged more than 1,200 text messages and phone calls in less than two years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry put that number in context, though, by mentioning Monday that during the same period Williams made or received about 109,000 calls and texts.

    "I'm a busy man," Williams said.

    Asbill asked Williams whether having the governor call the businessman's father on his 80th birthday was business or personal. Williams said it was personal, but it wouldn't have been possible without his spending on the McDonnells.

    "This cost me, in my mind, hundreds of thousands of dollars even to be able to do that," he said.

    Maureen McDonnell's attorney said in opening statements that the first lady of Virginia developed a "crush" on Williams and was conned into believing he cared for her. Williams testified there was no romantic relationship.

    He said Maureen McDonnell requested many of the gifts -- including a $20,000 shopping spree for designer clothes in Manhattan and the Rolex watch for her husband -- as well as a $50,000 to bail the couple out of financial trouble. Williams said Bob McDonnell asked for an additional $20,000 loan later.

    Williams also detailed many of the events the McDonnells attended to promote his company's signature product, Anatabloc.