RICHMOND, Va. — The prosecution's star witness in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell continues his testimony Thursday.
Jonnie Ray Williams, the chief executive of Virginia-based Star Scientific who lavished the governor and his wife with more than $150,000 in gifts and loans, said the McDonnells were the ones with their hands out and that he only gave them what they asked for. Williams said he did it solely to get access to the governor in hopes of persuading him to get state researchers to study his product, Anatabloc.
It was a stark contrast to the way the McDonnells' lawyers characterized Williams' actions in court Tuesday.
Maureen McDonnell's lawyers called him a master manipulator who filled the void of a failed marriage. But Williams said the relationship was purely business.
"He's a politician. I'm a businessman." Williams said. He called allowing the governor to use his private Lear jet a common practice in Virginia.
"If you're a Virginia company, you make sure you have access" to politicians, he said.
Williams shed a different light on Maureen McDonnell's infamous April 13, 2011 shopping trip to New York where he purchased two Oscar de la Renta dresses, two pairs of Louis Vuitton shoes, a Louis Vuitton purse, raincoat, and other lavish gifts for for Virginia's then-first lady. Williams said it was Maureen McDonnell who pushed for the trip.
When Williams was invited to the governor's mansion for dinner April 29, 2011, he said he went so that he could pitch his product to the governor.
Four days later, Williams said he went to the governor's mansion after Maureen McDonnell called. She told him she wanted to talk about the dietary supplement his company manufactured. There, he said Maureen McDonnell explained that she and her husband were in financial trouble and that they were discussing filing for bankruptcy but that the governor thought that was a bad idea.
"She became very emotional at this point," Williams said. "She said to me, 'I have a background in nutritional supplements. The governor said it's OK for me to help you. But you need to help me.' "
Williams said she asked for a $50,000 loan and then asked him to pay a $15,000 catering balance for her daughter Cailin's wedding.
He said he would grant her request but first said that he needed to check with the governor.
"Before I gave her $65,000 in two checks, I needed to make sure her husband knew," Williams said. "He's the breadwinner. I'm not writing a check to his wife unless he knows about it."
Williams said he told Bob McDonnell about the checks and the governor said thank you.
U.S. Attorney Michael Dry asked Williams why he agreed to loan $50,000 to Bob McDonnell.
"I needed his help with testing" his product, Williams said. And the governor's support would give nutritional supplement Antabloc more credibility.
When the prosecution is finished questioning Williams, the McDonnells' lawyers are expected to deliver a strong cross-examination attempting to destroy his credibility. In Tuesday's opening statements, the defense said Williams cannot be trusted and changed his story nine times.