RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - If a judge had approved separate trials for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, the ex-first lady would have testified in her husband’s defense that she hid many of the gifts she received from a wealthy vitamin executive, according to a newly released court document.
The affidavit by Maureen McDonnell’s attorney, William Burck, was filed under seal last year and was made public Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge James Spencer refused the McDonnells’ motions to sever their trials. Bob McDonnell testified but his wife invoked her constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination and declined to take the stand in their joint trial.
The McDonnells were convicted of accepting more than $165,000 in low-interest loans and gifts from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his products. The former governor was sentenced to two years in prison and his wife to one year and one day. They are free on bond while they appeal the convictions.
According to Burck, his client’s testimony would have largely backed Bob McDonnell’s account of the couple’s dealings with Williams. McDonnell testified that the marriage was so strained that he and his wife were barely communicating, and that he was surprised to learn through the federal investigation about the extent of his wife’s association with Williams. Burck told the jury that Maureen McDonnell had developed “a crush” on Williams.
“Not only did Mrs. McDonnell not disclose to her husband many of the gifts from and interactions with Mr. Williams, she concealed much of what she was doing with him,” Burck wrote in the affidavit. “Mrs. McDonnell believed that if her husband learned of these activities and Mr. Williams’ gifts, Mr. McDonnell would tell her to curtail her relationship with Mr. Williams and to stop accepting the gifts.”
He said Maureen McDonnell would have testified that her husband did not know about the nearly $20,000 in designer clothing and accessories Williams purchased for her on a Manhattan shopping spree. She also would have testified that she didn’t immediately tell Bob McDonnell about a $50,000 loan that she used to pay credit card bills and secretly buy Star Scientific stock.
Maureen McDonnell also would have testified that she invoked her husband’s name, without his knowledge, in promoting Williams’ interests.
Spencer’s refusal to sever the trials is one of the issues Bob McDonnell has raised in his appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has scheduled a hearing for May 12.
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