Fmr. sec. of Va.: Maureen McDonnell was 'very diva-ish'

RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- The former Secretary of the Commonwealth was on the stand for the defense Monday in the federal corruption trial of Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, giving the former Virginia governor a glowing review but testifying about the former first lady's challenging behavior and anger issues.

Janet Kelly said that Maureen McDonnell was "very difficult, very demanding, very diva-ish." She testified that, at one point, her relationship with the former first lady "had deteriorated past the point of common sense." Kelly described Maureen McDonnell's behavior as challenging and said that when she accepted her position in the governor's office, she asked Bob McDonnell that she not be his wife's point of contact. Kelly later decided to help with the former first lady when the situation at the mansion worsened.

Kelly testified about a January 30, 2012 letter that the mansion staff wrote and signed, threatening to quit if Maureen's behavior didn't change. She said that the governor's staff decided not to show the letter to Maureen because she was "pathologically incapable of taking any responsibility."

"There were some concerns that she was suffering from an illness," Kelly said about Maureen McDonnell. Kelly said she didn't grow into her role as first lady easily and that she would exaggerate and embellish. Kelly said it was "well known that she would hide" but that she didn't know much about her infamous New York shopping trip with Jonnie Williams.

Kelly was very emotional when testifying about the first lady, even crying on the stand, because of her fondness of Bob McDonnell. Kelly called the former governor "extraordinarily gracious" and said it was an "honor of a lifetime to work for him." She referred to him as "Boy Scout of the year" and "Mr. Honest", adding that she would work with him again if he resolved his marriage troubles.

Kelly said that Maureen would yell at her husband late at night about things that had happened during the day. She said the former first couple was very affectionate in public, but that "the substance of their marriage didn't seem to back up that affection." Kelly described two different times at the McDonnells' personal home when the couple barely interacted.

Kelly testified about a plane ride she took with Jonnie Williams and Maureen McDonnell to a Romney event in South Carolina. When asked about the interaction between Williams and Maureen, Kelly said it was "kind of flirty, very very very friendly." Kelly said on the plane ride home without Maureen, Jonnie was "very salesman-like in his efforts to get me to buy Star stock. Kelly said she went home and prayed about it and just "didn't have a good feeling." During cross examination by the government, prosecutors said Kelly never told them during an interview about Williams and Maureen being flirty. Kelly said they never asked.

Kelly testified that the Bob McDonnell's operative philosophy for dealing with donors was "if you can't take someone's money and vote against their bill the next day, then you shouldn't be in politics."

Kelly was involved in the former governor's scheduling, and said it was typical for him to not review his scheduled until the day of. Kelly said that she was involved in making appointments for the governor, and testified that donors and gift-givers would want appointments but would be turned down. Kelly said the former governor wanted the "best and brightest" on his cabinet. Kelly said the governor never asked that anyone related to Jonnie Williams be appointed.

Following Kelly's testimony, former Executive Director of the Tobacco Commission Neal Noyes testified that Bob McDonnell never spoke to him about the Star Scientific, Jonnie Williams or Anatabloc. Noyes said that law enforcement asked the Tobacco Commission to produce any emails about Star Scientific. He said the commission found very few, and the ones they did find were very brief communications with UVA.

Three other cabinet secretaries were on the stand Monday, all testifying that Bob McDonnell never mentioned Jonnie Williams and never asked for any grants on his behalf. Former Secretary of Education Laura Fornish, former Secretary of Finance Richard Brown, and former Secretary of Commerce and Trade James Cheng all testified that the governor never asked them to do anything unethical.

Fornish, who served as the liaison between the governor and Virginia public universities, said that Bob McDonnell never asked her to push Star Scientific to UVA or VCU. She also said that the universities never complained of pressure from the governor to apply for research grants on Star Scientific's behalf.

Brown testified that Bob McDonnell never asked for any money in the state budget to be allocated towards Anatabine research or Star Scientific. Brown said that the first lady has no control over the budget, other than the influence she has over her husband.

Cheng said that Bob McDonnell never appropriated funds or pushed for legislation in support of Star Scientific. He gave examples of when the governor did influence grants, but said that never happened for Jonnie Williams.

Through their testimonies, the defense tried to show that while the governor could have pushed grants for Williams and did even have a budget that would allow him to give Williams money with oversight, he never did. During cross examination, the prosecution revealed that James Cheng contributed $15,000 to Bob McDonnell's defense fund.

The cabinet secretaries testified that it was normal for them to meet with constituents and businesses at the request of the governor. They said it was typical to have to tell companies "no" when they didn't qualify for grants. Fornish and Cheng said that the governor's "Bob's for Job's" slogan was not just a bumper sticker but a priority and that it was very clear when Bob McDonnell wanted something done.

First on the stand Monday was the Brenda Chamberlain, who was the bookkeeper for MoBo Realty LLC, Bob and his sister Maureen's real estate company. Through Chamberlain's testimony, the defense tried to show that the former governor didn't hide his loans from Jonnie Williams and Starwood Trust. Chamberlain had access to the MoBo bank accounts, which showed the loan deposits and wire transfers from Starwood Trust.

During cross examination by the prosecution, Chamberlain testified that while she knew about loans, she didn't know who Jonnie Williams was or about the terms of any of his loans or the intended recipient. The government showed that Bob McDonnell emailed Chamberlain about loans from Jonnie Williams after Maureen was interviewed by law enforcement on February 15.

The judge announced Monday that another juror was excused due to a family emergency. That leaves just one alternate.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from then-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement, Anatabloc.

The prosecution rested their case on Thursday after almost three weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses. The most damaging testimonies came from star-witness Jonnie Williams and FBI Special Agent David Hulser. Williams spent almost three days on the stand, testifying about how he bribed the McDonnells, giving them loans, designer clothes and lavish vacations, all to get state funding for his product. Hulser, last on the stand for the prosecution, went through years of communication and exchange between the couple and Williams.

He went through the couples finances, revealing that their credit card debt reached a high of just under $91,000.


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