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“I thought the [credibility] of the governor towards letting them know our company was important and this discovery was important would be very helpful to our company,” he said of the Richmond-based physicians and health care professionals in attendance.

He then recounted a $20,000 shopping spree on which he took Mrs. McDonnell in April 2011 in New York City — one that was put on hold when Mr. Williams was waved off of buying Mrs. McDonnell’s inauguration dress.

Mr. Williams said that a few days later he dined with the McDonnells at the executive mansion. He said he returned to have a one-on-one meeting with Mrs. McDonnell. She told him the couple was near financial ruin and had considered declaring bankruptcy.

“She said, ‘I can be helpful to you with this project,’ ” he related. ” ‘The governor says it’s OK for me to help you, but I need you to help me.’ “

That help came in the form of a $15,000 check for her daughter Cailin’s wedding reception and a $50,000 check to Mrs. McDonnell herself to help with a troubled real estate asset in Virginia Beach — hand-delivered by Mr. Williams to the mansion on May 23, 2011.

Mr. Williams said Mr. McDonnell knew about the money.

“I needed to make sure her husband knew about it,” he said. “He was the breadwinner in the house, and I’m not writing his wife any check without him knowing about it.”

Prosecutors did not ask about, nor did Mr. Williams offer, any specific details about his relationship with Mrs. McDonnell. Part of the defense’s argument is that Mrs. McDonnell developed an infatuation with Mr. Williams, who showered her with the attention and gifts she craved but was not receiving from her husband, a workaholic who was putting in 14- to 16-hour workdays in his capacity as governor.

Judge James R. Spencer adjourned for the day Wednesday before the prosecution was finished questioning Mr. Williams, who is likely to face a tough cross-examination by defense lawyers undoubtedly looking for any way to put dents in his story and erode his credibility.

The proceedings are scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.