McDonnell trial recap: Juror dismissed & ...Steven Spielberg?

RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- The federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen got off to a late start Tuesday after a juror was inexplicably dismissed.

It began with a closed-door meeting in judges chambers, after which Bob McDonnell's behavior was visibly different. He sat with his back to the courtroom and his head down. With the dismissal of one juror Tuesday morning, two alternates remain.

Here's a recap of Tuesday's testimonies:

Doctor says Williams took him to mansion to meet Steven Spielberg

A VCU cardiologist testified about a meeting he had with Jonnie Williams during which Williams took him to the governor's mansion and the first lady introduced him to Steven Spielberg. Dr. George Vetrovec said Jonnie Williams had contacted him about a new drug that he wanted to talk about. Vetrovec said he met Williams in the main entrance to the VCU Medical Center and Williams told him they were going to the mansion because Maureen McDonnell makes really good cookies and Williams got her to make them some.

Dr. Vetrovec said on the way to the mansion, Williams talked about Anatabloc and the research he wanted. Vetrovec said they drove to the mansion in a fancy car and when they got there, Williams parked on the lawn and told the guard Vetrovec was his guest. There was an event going on at the mansion for the release of Lincoln, the movie, and Steven Spielberg was there. Vetrovec said Williams took him to Maureen McDonnell, who then introduced Vetrovec to Steven Spielberg. Vetrovec said that it seemed Williams was using the event to help enhance his interest in Anatabloc, which didn't work.

Vetrovec said this wasn't his first encounter with Williams. He testified that years before, he ran into Williams in the Atlanta airport and that Williams had upgraded Vetrovec's seat to first class. Vetrovec first met Williams when he treated a friend of his who was his patient.

Officer says first lady told him she signed loan agreement with Williams

Also testifying on Tuesday was Special Agent Charles Hagan with the Virginia State Police. Hagan testified that he interviewed Maureen McDonnell about two checks from Jonnie Williams: a $15,000 check paying for her daughter's wedding and a $50,000 check to Maureen. Hagan said he was initially investigating the mansion's chef on allegations that he was stealing food, and that police found the $15,000 check while searching the chef's catering business.

Hagan recalled his interview with Maureen, saying that she was pleasant but became inquisitive when asked about Jonnie Williams and the checks. Hagan said the former first lady told him that Williams was a long time family friend who had met Bob McDonnell when he left the Army. She said that the $50,000 loan was a personal loan to her and that she had been making periodic payments. When asked to show the loan agreement she said she signed, Maureen told Hagan that Williams had it and she would try to get him a copy, according to Hagan. Hagan testified that Maureen never asked for a lawyer.

Although Hagan testified that Maureen told him about a written loan agreement and periodic payments and a typed police report reflects that testimony, the defense tried to prove that Maureen didn't say that in the interview. The defense showed handwritten notes that Hagan took during the interview in which he wrote "I have a contract" and "I am paying back." Hagan said that he was confident Maureen called this a written contract and that she had already made payments, even though that wasn't in the handwritten notes. James "Doc" Lyons, an officer who accompanied Hagan to interview Maureen McDonnell, supported Hagan's statement in his own testimony. No written loan agreement actually exists.

The defense also accused Hagan of using a member of the Executive Protection Unit, the unit that protects the first couple, as a spy. Defense attorneys alleged that Hagan sought out Mark Wiley to eaves-drop on the governor, but Hagan denied doing so. Hagan said he asked Wiley for help on possible gifts not being reported and that Wiley ended up telling him other things about the governor on his own accord.

Jonnie Williams had his brother do house work for McDonnells

Donnie Williams testified that his brother Jonnie Williams asked him to do work on the McDonnells' personal home. Donnie said he typically just did work for family and close friends but that he helped the McDonnells because Jonnie asked. Donnie said that he did lots of work on the McDonnells' home, including replacing the floors, getting a new hot tub cover, trimming bushes, staining the deck and more.

The prosecution showed text messages between Donnie and Maureen. In one of the texts, Maureen asked Donnie if she needed to give him a credit card, to which he replied, "No Jonnie's paying for it". The defense showed Maureen's response to finding out Jonnie was paying: "OMG! I didn't expect him to do that". Donnie said Jonnie paid for the work on the McDonnells' house, but did say that Maureen offered to pay several times. When the work was being done, Donnie said Maureen didn't ask about pricing.

Donnie testified that Maureen did ask for an invoice and sent a check for some of the work, but only after the corruption investigation began. Also after investigators questioned her, Maureen gave Donnie a box of dresses to return to Jonnie that he could auction off, according to Donnie's testimony. Donnie said Maureen was nervous when she gave him the box. With the box was a note to Jonnie, but Donnie said he didn't read the note because he wanted nothing to do with it.

Maureen's note, which is the basis for her obstruction charge, thanked Jonnie for letting her borrow the dresses and said he could give them to his daughters or auction them off.

Va. Beach mayor says McDonnells didn't disclose loan on bank form

Virginia Beach Mayor and TowneBank President William Sessoms was called to testify about Bob McDonnell's failure to disclose loans from Jonnie Williams. TowneBank had given Bob McDonnell and his sister Maureen two loans for Virginia Beach properties that they were renting out. Sessoms said the rentals were not covering the cost of the properties and that Bob and his sister had to use their personal assets to make mortgage payments.

On a personal financial statement that the former governor filed, Sessoms testified that Bob McDonnell did not disclose his loans from Jonnie Williams. Sessoms said he is good friends with the former governor and told reporters that he just wanted to get his testimony over with.

William Sessoms will be back on the stand Wednesday morning for cross examination.

Former AG Kilgore says Kuccinelli recommended him to Jonnie Williams

Former Attorney Jerry Kilgore was first on the stand Tuesday to conclude his testimony. Kilgore testified that it was Ken Cuccinelli who recommended him to then-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. Kilgore was working with Williams to help Star Scientific get state funding for Anatabloc research. Monday, Kilgore said he told Williams that the best way to get a grant from the Tobacco Commission was through a Virginia research institution like the University of Virginia or Virginia Commonwealth University.

In his testimony, Kilgore also talked about the Anatabloc launch party at the governor's mansion. Kilgore said that prior to the party, he received a call from a top member of the governor's staff who said he didn't want the mansion to host the launch party. Kilgore testified that when he shared this information with Star Scientific, Jonnie Williams said that he, along with the McDonnells, wanted the launch party to take place at the mansion. Williams said this was the best way to get the word out and get Anatabloc in the press.

Travel aide says ex-gov. pulled out Anatabloc, talked stocks with first lady

Emily Rabbitt, Bob McDonnell's former deputy scheduler and travel aide, was on the stand briefly. Rabbit recalled a time that she was in the elevator with the former governor and first lady after a Suntrust event. Rabbitt testified that she heard Bob McDonnell say something about stocks to Maureen McDonnell. Rabbitt said the former governor then pulled something from his pocket and took out a pill.

"I think it might have been Anatabloc," she said.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment