- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

RICHMOND — Prosecutors completed their questioning of Bob McDonnell on Tuesday, establishing during cross examination what has turned out to be a largely circumstantial case against the former Virginia governor accused of public corruption.

But after stating since the indictment was first handed up in January that he was looking forward to telling his side of the story, Mr. McDonnell also appeared to fall short of resolving key questions about his relationship with a wealthy businessman who plied his family with gifts and loans.

The defense’s case appeared headed toward a close Wednesday, after the former governor was cross examined for two days by prosecutor Michael Dry. Mr. McDonnell’s temperament during at-times contentious questioning ranged from reserved to emphatic, and he was unwavering for much of Tuesday when he denied repeatedly any effort to conceal the nature of his relationship with Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

Mr. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are accused of conspiring to promote the business interests of Mr. Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for more than $170,000 worth of gifts and loans.

But if the prosecution was saving a “smoking gun” correspondence definitively proving a quid pro quo between Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Williams for the cross examination, it was unclear what exactly it was.

Mr. Dry questioned Mr. McDonnell about notes he exchanged with Mr. Williams that appeared to coincide with related acts as governor.

Mr. McDonnell dashed off a late-night email telling William A. Hazel Jr., his secretary of health and human resources, to set up a meeting with Mr. Williams the night he came home from a 2011 vacation on the businessman’s tab.

He also whipped out a bottle of Mr. Williams‘ product, Anatabloc, in a meeting about how to lower health care costs for the state workforce days after a $50,000 check for his real estate company arrived from Mr. Williams in March 2012.

But Mr. McDonnell, choosing his words carefully in many instances, managed to deflect much of Mr. Dry’s questioning. And he denied outright that Mr. Williams had ever asked him for anything or he had given him special treatment.

Mr. Williams, in his own testimony under immunity earlier in the trial, said he was after the prestige of the governor’s office to support his product, Anatabloc.

Prosecutors have implied he got what he was looking for — or at least treatment the governor wouldn’t afford to just anyone — in an executive mansion lunch for Anatabloc’s rollout in August 2011 and a picture of a smiling Mr. McDonnell holding a bottle of Anatabloc at a different event, for example.

“Every donor wants something,” Mr. McDonnell said Tuesday, adding that Mr. Williams never told him about something specifically that he wanted.

For his part, Mr. McDonnell admitted Tuesday to taking the more than $170,000 in gifts and loans. He said he regretted taking that much, or allowing members of his family to accept the ones he didn’t know about.

He only learned after the fact, for example, that his wife had negotiated an initial $50,000 loan from Mr. Williams in 2011.

“I’m responsible for my family,” he said, noting that he “allowed my life to get out of balance so that my judgement wasn’t as good as it should have been.”

“That is my error,” he said. “I take responsibility for that.”

But Mr. Dry also put Mr. McDonnell on the defensive on several occasions, notably when he acknowledged revising loan applications after his wife had been questioned by authorities in February 2013. In addition to the public corruption charges, the McDonnells also have been charged with falsifying documents submitted to banks because they didn’t list their outstanding liabilities to Mr. Williams on them. Mrs. McDonnell is also facing an obstruction charge.

Mr. McDonnell said he didn’t look at the initial form carefully and had always treated it as a draft. But it was after law enforcement had questioned his wife did Mr. McDonnell mention a confidentiality agreement with bookkeeper Brenda Chamberlain, who was helping him prepare the documents in early 2013.

Mr. Dry also questioned him about emails from February 2012 that the former governor sent just minutes apart — one to Mr. Williams asking him if he should call his lawyer about certificates and documents and the next to chief counsel Jasen Eige telling Mr. Eige to see him about Anatabloc issues at public universities in the state.

One thing Mr. Williams has said he wanted was state funding to conduct clinical trials for the product.

Mr. McDonnell has said he routinely fires off many late-night emails — such as the other one to Dr. Hazel — and that he didn’t understand at the time that Mr. Williams was trying to get his help securing clinical studies at state universities.

“He never asked me for help” with Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia, Mr. McDonnell said.

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