Defense rests in McDonnell corruption trial

RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- Defense teams for Bob and Maureen McDonnell have rested their cases in the federal corruption trial against the former Virginia governor and his wife.

The couple is accused of accepting more than $177,000 in gifts and loans from then-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement, Anatabloc.

Virginia's former first lady, accused along with her husband of public corruption, was gullible, trusting and perhaps even a bit obsessed, witnesses testifying in her defense said Wednesday.

The couple's oldest daughter, Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky said on the stand that her mother Maureen had a "mild obsession" with Jonnie Williams.

Maureen considered Williams a good friend, not a business associate, Zubowsky said. Maureen and Williams shared a passion for nurta-ceuticals and Maureen was really interested in Anatabloc, according to her daughter.

Zubowsky was less impressed and said she nearly got caught up in Williams's gift-giving herself before her marriage in May 2013. Jonnie Williams gave Zubowsky an unsolicited $10,000 check for her then-fiance's tool party in place of a generator that he planned to give. She said she felt uncomfortable about the amount but deposited the check anyway. Zubowsky returned the check "once we realized that Jonnie himself was a criminal," she testified.

When asked about her parents' public and private existence, Zubowsky said "it was like a switch flipped."

Zubowsky testified about a July 2011 vacation when father confided in her about his marriage.

"I don't know what to do anymore. I can't make her happy. She's always angry," Zubowsky said her father told her.

Zubowsky began her testimony talking about her childhood. Her father was away while she was growing up, leaving her mother by herself with the five children, Zubowsky said. Her mother Maureen would feel "frustration, loneliness, anger at times" when Bob McDonnell was away, according to Zubowsky's testimony.

"I think she was depressed so she would try to escape," Zubowsky testified, saying her mom would have drinks and take long baths. When her father was home, "Kids were the priority and then my mom came last," she testified.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell's communication was "very non-existent" and that they would only talk about logistics and necessities, Zubowsky testified.

Her parents would frequently fight about "money that was spent and didn't need to be," Zubowsky testified. Her mom wouldn't often hide purchases from her dad, who would only find out about them when the bill came, according to testimony.

Talking about her parents' arguments, Zubowsky said that her mom would yell but she never heard her father yell.

"He was just trying to not have it escalate further."

Though Zubowsky was called to defend her mother, her testimony will bolster the case of both teams of lawyers for her parents. Since the trial began 4½ weeks ago, they have maintained that the McDonnells' marriage of 38 years is broken and that the couple barely communicates so they could not have conspired to use the governor's office to enrich themselves.

April Niamtu, Maureen McDonnell's close friend for five years, was first on the stand for the former first lady Wednesday.

Niamtu testified about a trip she took, via Jonnie Williams's private plane, to a NuSkin convention with Maureen during which they made a pit stop in California. Niamtu didn't know anything about going to California until she arrived at the airport, according to her testimony.

On the plane ride, Jonnie Williams told a story about how he was hit on the head with a golf club and he used Anatabloc lotion to treat the wound, Niamtu said.

While in California, Williams took Niamtu and Maureen to an Anatabloc event. Niamtu said she was under the impression that there would be just a few doctors at the event, but they arrived to hundreds of people.

"It was like going to a Christian revival. It was over the top crazy."

Williams asked Maureen to speak about Anatabloc, leaving her feeling awkward and ambushed, according to Niamtu.

"She looked like a deer in the headlights." Niamtu said.

Maureen never discussed her marriage troubles because "that would have been a betrayal to Bob if she did," Niamtu said.

Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell's defense rested Wednesday morning, calling no more witnesses in the federal corruption trial against him and his wife, Maureen.

The prosecution called to rebuttal witnesses at end of day Wednesday and will call at least one more Thursday morning. Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday.


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