Richmond, VA, United States (4E) – The wife of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell claimed that their failing marriage was exploited by the businessman who gave them gifts at the start of the couple’s corruption trial on Tuesday.
William Burck, the lawyer of Maureen McDonnell, told a jury in an opening statement that she had a crush on Jonnie Williams Sr., who showered her attention and gifts to get the governor’s help in endorsing his health supplement product.
The ex-governor’s lawyer, John Brownlee, also told jurors that his busy schedule affected his marriage and that Williams manipulated the couple to escape prosecution from securities and tax fraud charges.
Brownlee was referring to Williams’ immunity deal with prosecutors where he will not be charged with a previous stock fraud count over a transaction that earned him $10 million.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Jessica Aber countered that the former governor and his wife accepted more than $150,000 in cash, gifts, trips and loans from Williams in exchange for the McDonnells arranging meetings with state health officials and hosting Executive Mansion receptions for him and his company Star Scientific. The meetings and receptions were used by Williams to promote his company’s product Anatabloc.
Aber said Williams gave Maureen $20,000 for shopping in New York City and a designer dress. In 2011, Williams loaned the governor $50,000, which McDonnell used to buy Star Scientific stocks and pay down credit card debt, and issued a $15,000 check to pay for the wedding reception bill of the couple’s daughter, Cailin.
Williams also allegedly paid for a $2,380 golf outing for the former governor and his twin sons at the exclusive Kinloch Golf Club in Goochland County.
Other evidences against the McDonnells presented to jurors were emails by the couple to Williams in the first half of 2012, requesting more money to prop up their sagging real estate investments.
Prosecutors allege that the gifts and loans were regarded by Williams as payment for the governor’s assistance.
Brownlee accused prosecutors of trying to criminalize McDonnell’s job of supporting Virginia companies.