- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2014

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.

Mr. McDonnell also testified Thursday that he didn’t immediately know Mr. Williams had lent his wife $50,000 in 2011.

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.

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. “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.

The former governor admitted in the email that he sometimes kept away from his wife and didn’t talk about important things to avoid confrontation. He testified that they don’t communicate much currently and that the marriage is “basically on hold.”

Mr. McDonnell said the couple is 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.

As for his relationship with Mr. Williams, Mr. McDonnell said he initially “trusted” the businessman and liked him from the start, calling him a “charming, funny guy.”

He recounted how he suggested Mr. Williams get in touch with his secretary of health and human resources, William A. Hazel Jr., after Mr. Williams had told the former governor about his nutritional-supplement product Anatabloc on a cross-country flight in October 2010.

“This is something I did literally thousands of times” as governor, he said.

Mr. McDonnell said he didn’t think his wife had a physical affair with Mr. Williams, but acknowledged that she did probably have a strong emotional attachment to him.

He has said he gave no preferential treatment to Mr. Williams or his company.

The former governor said that when he wrote Mr. Williams an email in 2011 to thank him for the help with his family, he was referring to plane trips for his political campaign, a wedding gift for his daughter Cailin and golf outings for him and his sons.

Mr. McDonnell also said that while he encouraged his son, Bobby, to return a set of golf clubs from Mr. Williams he personally decided to keep a golf bag.

As to why he drove a Ferrari provided by Mr. Williams back to Richmond from a vacation at Smith Mountain Lake in 2011, Mr. McDonnell said: “At some point, I’m entitled to be normal.”

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