Ex-Va. Gov. McDonnell testifies about gifts, marriage

RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was back on the stand Thursday, testifying about his troubled marriage and why he accepted gifts and loans from then-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are accused of accepting more than $177,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement, Anatabloc.

Thursday afternoon, the defense asked Bob McDonnell about various gifts and from Jonnie Williams. McDonnell said he didn't feel uncomfortable accepting the gifts because Williams never asked him for anything in exchange and it's not illegal to accept gifts from donors.

McDonnell said under oath Wednesday that he gave very little to Star Scientific besides "routine access to government" that countless other Virginia businesses received.

McDonnell testified that he knew nothing about a $50,000 loan that Williams gave to Maureen until after she had already used $30,000 of it to buy Star Scientific stock and $20,000 to pay credit card debt. Bob said Maureen had always wanted to buy stock to give to their children as wedding gifts.

When asked why he didn't make Maureen return the money, Bob said "I just needed to pick the battles with my wife on certain things very carefully."

Bob McDonnell said that his wife Maureen was the reason why he accepted certain gifts from Jonnie Williams. He testified that Maureen wanted to go to Jonnie Williams's house in Smith Mountain Lake, so he said okay. Bob also testified that he had no idea Maureen asked Jonnie if he could have the Ferrari waiting at the lake house for him.

When asked why he drove the Ferrari back to Richmond, McDonnell testified that he never got to drive and was entitled to feel normal.

"And listen," he said, "it was a Ferrari...it was fun."

About those golf outings at Kinloch, McDonnell said he did that to spend time with his sons. He said the $15,000 check to his daughter Cailin was a wedding gift to her from Williams, and while it was "overly generous," he was okay with it.

And the Rolex watch? He testified that he thought Maureen bought it and didn't realize how expensive it was. McDonnell said the watch came in a Movado box without any paperwork or original packaging, and at one point he thought it might be fake.

When asked if he liked the Rolex, McDonnell said he wore it because he thought it was an expression of Maureen's love.

"It was big, it was gaudy," McDonnell said, testifying that he didn't really like the watch.

McDonnell said he never knew that Jonnie Williams purchased the Rolex, as well as many other items of question in the investigation.

McDonnell testified that he only found out about certain gifts, like dresses purchased by during Maureen's New York shopping trip, after the investigation began in early 2013. McDonnell also said that he had no idea just how much his wife and Jonnie Williams were actually communicating.

"I was actually hurt and I was very surprised," McDonnell testified on finding out about the 950 calls and texts between Williams and his wife in 2011. He said that was more communication that he had with Maureen.

McDonnell spent the entire morning discussing his relationship with his wife Maureen. The former governor said he became physically and emotionally unavailable to his wife, who was becoming more and more anxious and stressed about her public role.

"I want a relationship, I want more time," Bob testified Maureen would tell him.

McDonnell said that communication with his wife worsened over the years, and that they would only talk about logistics.

The marriage became "a business of living as opposed to our relationship," he testified.

He admitted to working late night hours at the office to avoid coming home to Maureen's complaints about the mansion's staff.

McDonnell also said that because he was governor, Maureen had to give up her passion for nutra-ceuticals, which upset her.

McDonnell, who had been collected and confident throughout the trial, was much more emotional discussing his wife. He began his testimony Thursday saying, "It's going to be very, very difficult" to talk about his marriage, which he's tried to keep to himself over the years. He answers his attorney's questions about Maureen with great hesitation.

The defense showed an email that Bob had written to his wife on Sept 5, 2011, a time when he said he thought his marriage was over.

"I love you. Yesterday was one of the lowest points in my life. We have had very hard year emotionally, despite a wonderful anniversary celebration. You are my soul mate. I love being married to you and having a family. We have shared much good life together. I have made many mistakes in my life which I wish I could fix. I am so sorry for all the times I have not been there for you and have done things to hurt you. I know I am a sinner and keep trying to do better. But I am completely at a loss as to how to handle the fiery anger and hate from you that has become more and more frequent. I'm so proud of your public actions. Our private life though has great heartache..."

The letter continues and ends with "let me know if you want to talk softly." Bob McDonnell says he never heard from his wife about the email. On the day it was written, Maureen had four contacts with Jonnie Williams.

Defense attorney Henry Asbill asked, "Today, as we speak, what's the state of you marriage?"

"We don't communicate much. It's, I think, basically on hold," Bob testified. He said that they are living separately.

When asked if he thought Maureen had a physical relationship with Jonnie Williams, Bob McDonnell said "I don't believe so." He said that he thought Williams was giving Maureen the emotional relationship that she was not getting from him.

McDonnell briefly touched on his relationship with his wife during testimony Wednesday, saying Maureen was "not as happy as he was" when he was elected governor. McDonnell said the morning after the election, Maureen yelled at him, possibly over what to wear, and seemed anxious about her new role as first lady.

Maureen has been characterized as anxious, challenging, and having anger issues. Her former staffers have testified about how difficult it was to work in the mansion because of Maureen's unpredictable behavior.


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