RICHMOND — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell thought in September 2011 that his marriage might be over and was at a loss as to how to handle the “fiery anger and hate” from his wife.
He also said he initially liked Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the man whose gifts and loans to the McDonnells are at the heart of the public corruption case against he and his wife, Maureen.
Mr. McDonnell, in his second day of testifying in his own defense, described how he and his wife gradually grew apart as his public responsibilities increased, first as a state delegate, then attorney general and governor.
The McDonnells have been accused of accepting more than $170,000 in gifts and loans from Mr. Williams in exchange for promoting his business interests.
With regard to a $20,000 shopping spree on which Mr. Williams took Mrs. McDonnell in April 2011, Mr. McDonnell said Mr. Williams never asked if it was OK to buy his wife things, he didn’t know the contents of the shopping bags, and he didn’t even know the extent of the trip until after the investigation started.
A management consultant had actually suggested the two think about counseling, but Mr. McDonnell said his wife rejected the idea, believing it would ultimately get out to the public.
Defense lawyers have argued that the McDonnells’ crumbling marriage would have precluded them from conspiring together, as has been alleged, to advance the business interests of Mr. Williams and his company, Star Scientific Inc.
The defense also introduced an e-mail Mr. McDonnell said he sent his wife in September 2011 when he thought their marriage was on the verge of collapse.
“I am so sorry for all the times I have not been there for you and have done things to hurt you,” Mr. McDonnell wrote.
Mr. McDonnell wrote that “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.”
He said he and his wife would frequently argue over her treatment of staff in the Governor’s Mansion and acknowledged he partly put his marriage on hold in 2011 and 2012.
“I just couldn’t talk to her,” Mr. McDonnell testified Thursday.
Mr. McDonnell admitted in the email that he sometimes kept away from her and didn’t talk about important things to avoid confrontation.
The former governor testified that they don’t communicate much currently and that the marriage is “basically on hold.”
He said they’re not currently living together and that he started staying with his pastor about a week before the trial.
“I needed to be able to focus,” he said.