Exec at heart of ex-Va. Governor's corruption trial due back on stand

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 31, 2014 9:15 AM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - The businessman who federal prosecutors contend gave gifts and loans to former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife is due to return to the witness stand on Thursday at the couple's corruption trial.

The businessman, Jonnie Williams, on Wednesday told a jury in U.S. District Court in Richmond that he had given the couple $165,000 in gifts and loans to benefit the nutritional supplements company he ran at the time, Star Scientific Inc, which has since changed its name to Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals.

Defense attorneys had portrayed the relationship between Williams and Maureen McDonnell as more than mercenary, contending in opening statements that the governor's wife had developed a "crush" on Williams at a time when her marriage was falling apart.

They said that the McDonnells were barely talking when they accepted gifts, including a $20,000 shopping spree from Williams, which they contended meant they could not have conspired.

The McDonnells have said in court filings there is no evidence they agreed to use their power to aid Williams. The former Republican governor, 60, who left office in January at the end of his four-year term, had been mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate before the scandal erupted.

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If convicted, the couple face more than 20 years in prison and a large fine.

Williams has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott)