- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2014

The trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife enters its second week on Monday, with the prosecution’s key witness returning to the stand for what at times has been riveting testimony.

Businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who began testifying late Wednesday, has told jurors under questioning that he did not consider the McDonnells personal friends and that he gave family things of value with the expectation that the governor would promote his company’s interests.

The statements stand in contrast to key parts of the McDonnells’ defense against federal corruption charges. Their attorneys have laid out a strategy suggesting that the couple was estranged at the time of their association with Mr. Williams and had not conspired to accept loans and gifts from him.

Mr. Williams on Friday acknowledged that he was “much” closer with Mrs. McDonnell than he was with her husband and he spent more time with her than he did with Mr. McDonnell. The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty to 14 counts charging them with trading more than $150,000 in gifts and loans from Mr. Williams for helping promote Star Scientific Inc., a company where he had served as CEO.

As for the more than 1,200 texts and phone calls the two exchanged between April 2011 and February 2013, he said that “95-plus percent had to do with a business relationship, or 98 percent.”

“I was busy,” Mr. Williams said. “Certainly a lot of activity in that period of time.”

On one day alone in December 2011, William Burck, a lawyer for Mrs. McDonnell, said there were 52 text messages exchanged in one three-hour period between Mr. Williams and Mrs. McDonnell.

Asked if she had mentioned she had a fight with the governor on one day in September 2011 — around the same time Mr. McDonnell supposedly wrote her a lengthy email begging her to help save their marriage — Mr. Williams smiled, appearing a bit incredulous, before saying “no.”

“She did not ever discuss her personal relationship with the governor,” he said.

Mrs. McDonnell did make a ribald joke in an email to Mr. Williams about the August 2011 earthquake in Virginia, however.

“I just felt the EARTH MOVE [&] I WASN’T HAVING SEX!!!!” Mrs. McDonnell wrote in an email to Mr. Williams on Aug. 23, 2011.

Mr. Burck said in his opening statement this week that Mrs. McDonnell and Mr. Williams had a relationship some would consider inappropriate for two adults who weren’t married to each other. Mr. Williams said there was nothing romantic between the two of them.

Mr. Williams also revealed Friday that he had been asked to wear a wire by law enforcement officials in early 2013 in connection to his relationship with the governor — a proffer that prompted him to immediately call his lawyers.

“My thoughts were, ‘The governor could be in trouble and I could be, too,’” he said.

Mr. Burck also attempted to cast a bit of doubt on the memory of Mr. Williams, who in the past several days appeared to rattle off with relative ease his tales of past business dealings and his relationship with the McDonnells.

But on many occasions Friday, he said he could not recall various details of conversations with law enforcement officials throughout the investigation — including one that occurred Sunday on the eve of jury selection.

He recalled in great detail a conversation he had with one of the McDonnells’ daughters, Cailin, about a car he was supposedly to have purchased for her, for example.

So you remember that conversation from two years ago and you can’t recall conversations with prosecutors that occurred as recently as Sunday? Mr. Burck asked him.

Some conversations are more memorable or outstanding than others, Mr. Williams said, and law enforcement officials ask him a lot of questions while the McDonnells’ daughter asked him one.



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