News Column

McDonnell trial: Williams loans, gifts, seemed OK, former governor testifies

August 22, 2014

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

Aug. 22--RICHMOND -- Former Gov. Bob McDonnell testified today that the loans Jonnie R. Williams Sr. gave his company, the vacations he financed and the dirt-cheap work his brother did on the McDonnell family home all seemed fine to him.

He said he didn't know the full extent of his wife's investment in Williams' company, how much contact they had or how thoroughly she was supporting that company, Star Scientific, as the first lady of Virginia.

As his attorney continued to walk him through much of the "quid" in the alleged quid pro quo relationship with Williams, McDonnell explained each one away.

The $70,000 Williams loaned MoBo Real Estate, which the governor co-owned with his sister, at 2 percent interest in 2012? That seemed fine, McDonnell said. Williams was becoming a family friend, and he hadn't asked the governor to do much of anything to promote Anatabloc, Star Scientific's key product.

During loan talks, they didn't discuss Williams' desire to move things along at the University of Virginia or Virginia Commonwealth University, which Williams hoped would study Anatabloc, a major step toward a stamp of approval. McDonnell said he never told Williams he would follow up with university officials on the matter.

They never talked about keeping the loans a secret, either, McDonnell said, despite what Williams testified earlier in this trial.

The trip to Chathams Bar, which Williams paid for and let the governor and his wife invite friends to as well, seemed like a friendly offer. Was it wrong that Williams paid? McDonnell attorney Henry Asbill asked.

"No," McDonnell replied.

The governor said he and his wife paid Williams' brother, Donnie Williams, for work done at their private home in Glenn Allen. He didn't mention that Donnie Williams low-balled the costs, and that payment came only after the investigation that landed the governor and his wife in this courtroom began.

Donnie Williams testified to that effect earlier in this trial, though. He also said the McDonnells offered to pay him several times, but his brother said he'd cover the costs.

As for the $10,000 Williams gave one of McDonnell's daughters and her new husband as a wedding gift, the govenror said he didn't learn about that until after the investigation began. He did know about a separate $15,000 wedding gift to another daughter, and testified yesterday that it seemed OK to him.

Time and again this morning, McDonnell said Williams didn't ask him for any official actions as the two discussed loans, or spent time together on expensive trips and dinners. They have not yet discussed, in detail, what the governor's role may have been in a pair of mansion events Williams to which Williams was allowed to invite guests, and which he used to promote Anatabloc.

They have covered the meetings McDonnell set with state officials, which prosecutors allege to be part of the "quo" in a bribery conspiracy. McDonnell has said they were routine meetings, the sort he would arrange for any Virginia businessman.

Former administration officials have backed that up.

This is a breaking news item, filed during the trial's morning break. Come back for updates.


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