News Column

McDonnell trial: Jurors see dresses, gifts McDonnells received from businessman

August 14, 2014

By Travis Fain Tfain@dailypress.Com, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Aug. 14--RICHMOND -- Prosecutors paraded gifts that their star witness lavished on the McDonnell family early this afternoon afternoon as they brought the case against the former first couple down the home stretch.

Jurors, who previously saw most of these gifts in pictures, saw Oscar de la Renta dresses purchased on a New York shopping trip. They saw Louis Vuitton shoes, a wallet and purse. Golf clubs former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. bought for the McDonnell boys and a golf bag given to the governor.

There was a large box of Anatabloc, the supplement Williams wanted the McDonnell's help studying and promoting.

They saw golf shirts and golf shoes for the men, and a Louis Vuitton trench coat for the first lady. They saw the trial's famous Rolex again, but this time inside a plastic bag. Earlier in the trial, they were allowed to pass the $6,500 watch amongst themselves.

The gifts and loans Williams gave the family totaled more than $177,000, FBI Special Agent David Hulser testified. That's higher than the indictment in this case suggested, and higher than the $165,000 often seen in media accounts.

Hulser said it was a conservative figure, and with guiding questions from the prosecution, noted a handful of dinners and outings not included.

The McDonnells returned all these items to Williams, and repaid $120,000 in loans -- apparently with interest, based on checks enterred into evidence today. Investigators took the gifts from Williams and laid them before the jury on what's expected to be the prosecution's last day.

On Monday, the McDonnell defense will begin to lay out its case. The trial is on a lunch break as of 1:30 p.m., and McDonnell attorney Henry Asbill will continue cross examining Hulser this afternoon.

So far he has focused on the tremendous resources the government brought to bear in this case. Eight agents from the state, FBI and IRS worked on the case, Hulser testified. They did more than 300 interviews and gathered some 3.5 million pages of documents.

Asbill also noted that Hulser and the other agents didn't record any phone calls or conversations, so they don't know what was discussed in the various calls Hulser laid out for the jury this morning. (Scroll down to read coverage of that testimony.)

He suggested some of the meetings Hulser laid out this morning, based on the governor's calendar, didn't actually occur. He noted, in the way he questioned Hulser, that Bob McDonnell never called Virginia Commonwealth University or University of Virginia officials directly to push them to study Anatabloc, one of Williams' chief goals.

Nor did agents find evidence that McDonnell called tobacco commission members to push for grant money to fund that research, Hulser said.

Asbill also hinted that the defense will continue to focus on Mary Shea Sutherland's connection to the case. She was the first lady's chief of staff and hoped to get another job through Williams, who was wooing the McDonnells as his company brought Anatabloc to market.

Shortly before the trial broke for lunch, Asbill asked Hulser about a 14 minute phone call the first lady had with Williams as the governor drove the couple from Williams' vacation home at Smith Mountain Lake back to Richmond. They travelled in Williams' Ferrari, as the jury has already heard repeatedly.

Asbill suggested that McDonnell may not have heard any of that conversation. Pictures the first lady took that day show the car's top was down.

"Do you know what the sound level is in a Ferrari driving back from Smith Mountain Lake," Asbill asked.

"Unfortunately I do not," Hulser replied.

This is a breaking news item. Come back this afternoon for updates and keep reading below for coverage from this morning's proceedings.

RICHMOND -- The prosecution continued to lay out a timeline of contacts and payments for the McDonnell trial jury this morning, going month by month through the couple's relationship with Jonnie R. Williams in brutal detail.

Time and again phone records, calendars and emails showed flurries of activity between the main players in this case -- including former Gov. Bob McDonnell himself -- as Williams wrote checks to help him, his wife and a real estate venture the governor owns with his sister.

January 2012 found Williams, the government's star witness in this case, at the governor's mansion at the same time McDonnell's schedule listed him as at the mansion for lunch with his wife.

In February, the governor's schedule showed lunch again with his wife. Phone records showed her calling Jasen Eige, one of the governor's top aides, then emailing him, asking that he follow up with University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University officials.

Williams wanted the two universities to study Anatabloc, his company's marque product. The first lady emailed Eige, saying officials there weren't returning Williams' calls.

Later that month, Bob McDonnell texted Williams about a potential loan. The next day he emailed Eige, "Please see me about Anatabloc issues at VCU and UVA," according to the evidence.

In March, there was another flurry of activity surrounding a $50,000 check Williams wrote for MoBo Real Estate, the governor's partnership with his sister who, like his wife, is named Maureen.

In May the governor texted Williams to ask him for another $20,000, the records show. Several days later, the wire transfer went through, they show. That month, there weren't any cell phone calls between Williams and the governor's wife, FBI Special Agent David Hulser testified this morning.

No text messages either, he said.

The prosecution is winding down its case, using Hulser and charts he has compiled to remind the jury of evidence and testimony they've heard over the last two and a half weeks of this trial. The defense has not yet had a chance to cross examine Hulser, but that should come later today.

The prosecution is also expected to rest its case today, but before it does the jury may get to see, first hand, the dresses and other gifts Williams gave the McDonnell family.

There are boxes and what appear to be dresses in the courtroom, behind the prosecution's table, covered by a sheet. They have not been there other days in this trial.

Come back for updates.


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