Virginia prosecutor questions accountant in ex-governor's trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 20, 2014 3:37 PM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - Prosecutors in the bribery and corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell tried on Wednesday to cast doubt on an accountant’s testimony for the defense that the governor's personal finances were sound.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Faulconer presented documents showing McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, had used loans from businessman Jonnie Williams to pay off credit card and other debt and make it seem as if their finances were in good order.

The McDonnells have been charged with 14 counts of bribery and fraud for allegedly accepting more than $165,000 in loans and gifts from Williams, former chief executive officer of dietary supplement company Star Scientific Inc., to promote the company’s signature product, Anatabloc.

Prosecutors have said the couple was desperate for money and in deep trouble financially, and turned to Williams for help.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer also questioned Connecticut accountant Allen Kosowsky about numbers and examples he used to conclude that the McDonnells were on solid financial footing.

Kosowsky asserted that the ex-governor’s ability to write cash advances, transfer money from one credit card to pay off another and to borrow money from credit card accounts was a sign of financial well-being.

“How do you determine this is a good thing ... to be sound (financially) by creating debt?” Spencer asked from the bench.

Kosowsky said McDonnell's ability to create debt indicated credit card companies believed he was creditworthy.

“And that made him better off?” Spencer asked.

The defense has based much of its case on the premise that the former governor’s marriage was crumbling, and that precluded him from conspiring with his wife to help Williams.

James Burke, a clinical psychologist from Virginia Commonwealth University, testified for the defense that he advised McDonnell that his wife might benefit from counseling to help relieve anxiety and stress she was experiencing as Virginia’s first lady.

Burke, who had been called in to help build a team to support Maureen McDonnell, said the governor didn’t like the idea of counseling.

“He said he needed to take responsibility for something he created. He wanted to spend more time with her,” Burke said.

Burke, questioned by defense attorney John Brownlee, acknowledged that Maureen McDonnell’s staff members said they found her overbearing and hard to get along with at times.

However, he said he personally never saw such bad behavior.

A lawyer for Maureen McDonnell has said she had a “crush” on Williams and their relationship was “inappropriate.”

But Burke said the McDonnells seemed truly supportive of each other. He said Maureen McDonnell once sent him an email expressing deep affection for the governor.

“I wouldn’t be doing this for anyone else but that man of mine,” she wrote.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Beech)