Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Thursday that his marriage devolved to the point he was at a loss as to how to handle the “fiery anger and hate” from the first lady and that he was in the dark until after the fact on many of the dealings between her and a wealthy businessman.
Mr. McDonnell, testifying for a second day in his federal trial on public corruption charges, said he didn’t know a $6,500 Rolex watch was actually a gift from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and not his wife until sometime in March 2013 — more than a year after she had given it to him.
He said he thought she could afford it because of a stipend she received from her work with a charitable foundation — but that he didn’t much care for it.
“It was big, it was gawdy — it wasn’t my kind of watch … but it was my wife,” he said.
The watch, along with six-figure loans from Mr. Williams, has emerged as central to the trial. 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.
He said he was upset that Mrs. McDonnell had even taken on the additional money — $30,000 of which she said she used to buy stock in Mr. Williams‘ company, Star Scientific Inc., and $20,000 she used to pay credit card debt.
“We certainly didn’t need to borrow … money to buy stock,” he said, adding that he didn’t tell his wife to give the money back because, he reasoned, he had never done anything for Mr. Williams or his company at that point.
Mr. McDonnell had anticipated another confrontation with his wife after he had convinced her to use money she received after her father died in 2010 to pay down debt, rather than buy stock as she had wanted to do.
“I just was not going to take on that fight again with my wife,” he said.
The couple’s marital trouble was the subject of more testimony Thursday, with Mr. McDonnell disclosing that he thought in September 2011 that his marriage might be over.
He described how he and his wife gradually grew apart as his public responsibilities increased, first as a state delegate, then attorney general and as governor.
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.
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 him 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.