RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell took the stand in his federal corruption trial Wednesday, testifying that he never gave any special treatment to Star Scientific.
Bob McDonnell said that he did very little other than provide "routine access to government" to Star Scientific.
Bob and his wife Maureen are 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.
PHOTOS: McDonnell Trial Evidence
McDonnell said that as governor, he had control over the "Governor's Opportunity Fund" and could grant money to a Virginia business at his total discretion. McDonnell testified that he never granted money from this fund to Star Scientific. McDonnell also said that he never wrote a line item in the budget granting money to Star Scientific, another power that he had.
Defense attorney Henry Asbill asked Bob McDonnell about events and meetings during his time in office, and the former governor said these were very routine and that he attended thousands throughout the year. The prosecution alleges that part of Jonnie Williams's special treatment included a mansion event for Anatabloc and a meeting with the secretary of health. The defense is trying to show that this was ordinary.
Bob McDonnell testified that economic development and job creation was his top priority as governor. He kept emphasizing that everything he and his team did was to grow and promote Virginia business. McDonnell said he made official announcements, put out press releases and made site visits to and for many Virginia businesses as governor, however he said he didn't do any of that for Star Scientific.
McDonnell said he was genuinely interested in Star Scientific's product Anatabloc after meeting Jonnie Williams. The former governor said that Anatabloc had the potential to not only create some human good but also create jobs in the tobacco region, an economically depressed area in the Commonwealth.
McDonnell began his testimony talking about the day he was elected governor of Virginia. He said the morning after he was elected, he could tell his wife Maureen was not as happy as he was with the result. Bob said that he could sense some tension from Maureen about her impending role as first lady. Bob said Maureen was yelling about something, possibly about what to wear, and that he could tell she was stressed about what lay ahead. Maureen McDonnell's unhappiness with her role as first lady has been a theme throughout the defense's case.
Bob McDonnell took the jury through his life, from his childhood in northern Virginia through his college years, time in the Army, law school and eventually his race for Virginia attorney general and governor. McDonnell said his campaigns were costly, not only financially but also personally. He said his campaigns took away from his "husband-dad" time and were definitely difficult for his family.
McDonnell talked about how his parents raised him to be a public servant, which created a theme throughout his testimony. McDonnell testified that his overriding philosophy as governor was to serve others and put their needs before his own.
McDonnell was been calm, collected and confident on the stand, similar to how his demeanor has been throughout most of the trial. He made eye contact with the jury and never flinched at mention of Star Scientific or other controversial topics in the case. Thursday, he will begin his testimony talking about his marriage to Maureen, Henry Asbill said at end-of-day Wednesday.
Testimony from two character witnesses preceded Bob McDonnell's testimony. Father Timothy Scully, McDonnell's close friend since college, and Joe Damico, McDonnell's close friend since high school, both testified that the former governor is a man of great character. They answered affirmatively and emphatically when asked if Bob McDonnell was truthful, honest, law-abiding, devoted to family and public service.
Damico said that if Bob needed money, he could turn to him. He testified that in the courtroom, right then and there, he could write a check to Bob for seven figures. The defense is trying to show that the McDonnells didn't need money from Jonnie Williams.
Bob McDonnell's testimony is expected to last two or three days.
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