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Updates: Day 14 of the McDonnell corruption trial

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell arrives at the federal courthouse in Richmond on Wednesday. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Steve Earley)

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell arrives at the federal courthouse in Richmond on Wednesday. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Steve Earley)

Former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, are battling a 14-count public corruption indictment that alleges they lent the prestige of the governor’s office to a Richmond area businessman, and in exchange, the businessman lavished them with gifts and money. Jurors on Thursday resumed hearing testimony from witnesses during a trial in federal court in Richmond.

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Wednesday: Prosecution outlines debts

From Wednesday’s court proceedings:

When Robert F. McDonnell took office as Virginia’s 71st governor, he and his wife were mired in nearly $75,000 in credit card debt, records show. That figure soon grew to more than $90,000 — and came down because of insurance proceeds, a family trust and the generosity of a wealthy Richmond businessman, the records show.

On the 13th day of the federal corruption case against McDonnell (R) and his wife, prosecutors presented the evidence about the family finances as a striking wrap-up to their case, as they began working to connect the dots for jurors.

See more coverage of Wednesday’s proceedings here.

Tim Richardson
August 14, 9:31 am
  • Tim Richardson August 14, 9:31 am

What to expect Thursday

Nearly three weeks into Bob and Maureen McDonnell’s federal corruption trial, prosecutors are expected to rest their case against the couple on Thursday.

Proceedings will resume at 9:45 a.m. in what will be the 14th day of courtroom action. On the stand for prosecutors will be FBI Special Agent David Hulser. Prosecutors are hoping Hulser will tie together the case together for jurors, outlining for them the full timeline of alleged illegal activities that they have heard about from other witnesses.

Hulser could also add additional details from among more than 300 interviews and 3.5 million documents reviewed during the investigation, particularly phone records, as he did in testimony this week.

On Wednesday, Hulser described interaction that took place in 2011 between the McDonnells and businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. Using color-coded charts, he showed timelines of key dates, demonstrating how the couple spoke by phone not just with Williams on those days but also with one another. The goal is to present circumstantial evidence that the governor was in the loop about his wife’s activities with Williams.

On Thursday, he will presumably pick up where he left off and describe events in 2012.

At some point, prosecutors will turn Hulser over to defense attorneys for cross examination. They have indicated that Hulser will be their final witness and they will rest the case after he steps down.

Friday will be reserved for the judge to hear motions in the case, including the inevitable request by the defense that he dismiss the charges now. The defense is expected to begin its case on Monday.

Rosalind S. Helderman
August 14, 9:46 am
  • Rosalind S. Helderman August 14, 9:46 am

FBI agent attempts to tie together conspiracy evidence

Proceedings​ are underway again at the ​McDonnell trial, with FBI Special Agent David Hulser on the stand describing phone records, mansion logs and e-mails that prosecutors hope will show that former governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, conspired to seek the largess of Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

Hulser seems to be attempting to demonstrate to jurors that when the first lady met with Williams at the governor’s mansion, her husband knew about it. On Jan. 19, 2012, for example, the businessman came to the mansion from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to see the governor’s wife, visitors logs show. On the same day, the governor had on his calendar a noon lunch with Maureen McDonnell.

That the three simply got together would not be terribly shocking, but prosecutors also seem to be suggesting that there was some discussion of the struggling rental properties the governor owned with his sister, who is also named Maureen. Williams loaned $70,000 to a company the governor and his sister owned to manage those properties.

At 12:02 p.m. on Jan. 19, phone records show the first lady called her husband’s sister for a minute, and then followed up with a call to her sister’s then-husband, Michael Uncapher, who helped manage the rental properties’ finances. Williams would have been at the mansion during the calls.

Soon after the businessman left, records show he called Maureen McDonnell, and they talked for about four minutes. She then immediately called her husband, and then called Williams back again, the records show.

About a week later, Uncapher e-mailed the governor and his wife and referenced the “guy who is helping us,” records show. The governor wrote back, inquiring of the first lady if that person was “Johnny.” That could suggest to jurors that he, Williams and the first lady had talked business at the mansion a week earlier. Or it might have the opposite effect, indicating that McDonnell was genuinely confused about the situation.

Matthew Zapotosky
August 14, 10:22 am
  • Matthew Zapotosky August 14, 10:22 am

First lady pushes governor's aide on Anatabloc

Jurors have heard testimony in the trial about a potentially key e-mail that former Gov. Bob McDonnell sent to a top policy adviser just after midnight on Feb. 17, 2012. In the e-mail, McDonnell asked Jasen Eige to see him to discuss studies of Anatabloc at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia. That’s the dietary supplement made by Star Scientific, the company run by Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The e-mail to Eige came six minutes after McDonnell e-mailed Williams to discuss a loan.

Now, FBI Special Agent David Hulser has walked jurors through phone records and other emails in the days leading up to that note in an attempt to show that the governor and first lady were working together to assist Williams’ company.

On Feb. 8, 2012, Maureen McDonnell had a series of communications with Williams’s son, Jonnie R. Williams Jr., who also worked at Star Scientific. They spoke by phone, and then he forwarded her an e-mail describing the company’s need for studies. An attachment to that e-mail specifically mentioned that it was the governor of Virginia who proposed that the company seek state tobacco commission funding for its research.

During that day, Maureen McDonnell repeatedly tried to reach Eige by phone. The next day, the governor’s schedule shows he had lunch with the first lady at the mansion. A few hours lady, Maureen McDonnell forwarded the e-mail from Jonnie Williams Jr. to her husband, as well as Eige.

That night, the first couple traveled to Washington, D.C., together and stayed overnight at a hotel in Reston. At 9:27 a.m. the next day, Maureen McDonnell e-mailed Jasen Eige to push him on the studies: “gov wants to get this going with VCU MCV,” Maureen McDonnell wrote. “Pls let us know what u find out when we return.”

The governor’s schedule and other testimony suggest that the first lady sent Eige that e-mail while she was seated in an SUV with the governor driving to an event.

Rosalind S. Helderman
August 14, 10:42 am
  • Rosalind S. Helderman August 14, 10:42 am

Prosecutors tie mansion event to Williams's stock deal

Throughout the trial, prosecutors have characterized a Feb. 29, 2012, reception for health-care leaders at the governor’s mansion as an official benefit that former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell bestowed upon Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. Using various witnesses, they have shown that Williams was allowed to add to the event’s guest list in a way some found unusual.

Now, using phone records and calendar entries, prosecutors are trying to prove that the official event was tied to Williams’s  financial help. The records show that on Feb. 27 — two days before the event — Williams called the governor’s stockbroker, a man named John Piscitelli. The next day, according to the records, the governor’s travel aide scheduled his boss for an in-person meeting with Williams.

That meeting occurred on the same day of the health-care reception. And less than two hours after it was over, Williams again called McDonnell’s broker.

To be sure, the guest list would have already been mostly set when Williams met with McDonnell, and the governor has not disputed that he and Williams talked about a stock deal, which ultimately became a $50,000 loan. McDonnell even turned over to investigators notes from his meeting with Williams, and they clearly indicate a discussion of loans and stock.

But the timing might suggest to jurors that Williams’s involvement in the reception was connected to his willingness to give the governor money.

Freddy Kunkle
August 14, 11:00 am
  • Freddy Kunkle August 14, 11:00 am

FBI agent: Williams' cash kept McDonnells' property afloat

FBI Special Agent David Hulser has just finished showing jurors a series of complex charts displaying the finances of MoBo Real Estate, the small partnership Bob McDonnell owned with his sister, who has the same name as his wife, Maureen. MoBo was responsible for making payments and paying for upkeep on two investment properties in Virginia Beach.

The upshot: The properties were bleeding money. Mortgage payments were going up. So too were upkeep expenses. And this was after getting $115,000 from McDonnell’s father, a loan that Hulser showed was not paid back, as well as a $50,000 loan from a Virginia Beach radiologist.

The charts showed that just about the only time MoBo was able to keep up with its payments was after an infusion of cash from Jonnie Williams Sr., the chief executive of Star Scientific. In the days after his $50,000 check was deposited on March 12, 2012, the company quickly made a series of mortgage payments, as well as a $16,831.94 payment that appeared to be repair costs.

By the end of April, the company’s bank account had only $2,433.31 left.*

Emails from that time show McDonnell and his sister fretting about how to keep up with payments on the properties. Then, on April 28, 2012, McDonnell texted Williams: “Stock going great. Alzheimer’s study announcement really helped,” he wrote.

Williams wrote back, in part saying, “Let me know if Va Beach needs cash.”

“Phenomenal. This will be great for Virginia and medicine. We’ll talk to you about Va Beach soon.”

 

*[The sum of the bank balance has been corrected from an earlier post.]

Rosalind S. Helderman
August 14, 11:50 am
  • Rosalind S. Helderman August 14, 11:50 am

Governor needs cash from man whose name he misspells

Among the things FBI Special Agent David Hulser laid out for jurors on Thursday were emails and texts that show that former Gov. Bob McDonnell was searching for cash to make payments on two Virginia Beach properties he owned with his sister in April and May 2012.

On May 18, he texted Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and asked him if he could extend another $20,000 loan.  Williams wrote right back that he would do so and asked for an address to send a check.

“Johnnie. Thanks so much for your help and friendship,” McDonnell wrote back, misspelling Williams’s first name.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Faulconer asked Hulser if McDonnell’s schedule indicated where he was on the date he wrote the text.  Hulser answer that the schedule showed McDonnell to be in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

The defense objected before jurors could be reminded more about that trip. But they heard earlier testimony that the trip came as a free and undisclosed gift from Richmond businessman Bill Goodwin. (McDonnell scratched the $23,000 trip off of a draft of his annual statement of economic interest form, indicating to staff he considered the gift to be from a “personal friend” that did not need to be disclosed.)

Rosalind S. Helderman
August 14, 11:54 am
  • Rosalind S. Helderman August 14, 11:54 am

First lady takes credit for $50K loan, text says

Text and phone records suggest that Maureen McDonnell considered herself the behind-the-scenes driver of a $50,000 check Jonnie R. Williams Sr. gave to her husband’s real estate company in March 2012 — though the governor himself was also involved in the process.

On March 6, 2012 — the day the check is dated – phone records show both McDonnells, their stock broker and Williams exchanged phone calls. ​Later that night, the first lady sent a text message to the governor’s sister, who co-owned the real estate company, telling her, “You will be receiving a check written out to MoBo tomorrow by overnight delivery. Don’t deposit.”

MoBo is the name of the governor’s real estate company, a combination of his and his sister’s first names.

Less than a week later, on March 11, the governor’s wife again texted his sister, saying “Anxious friend waiting 4 me 2confirm u rec’d FedEx valuable package. PlsCall.” The sister, whose first name is also Maureen, said she had received the package — apparently the check — and asked if she should not deposit it.

The first lady told her she had wanted a return phone call.

“U don’t even know what it’s for and what agreement and arrangement I’ve made,” she wrote to the governor’s sister.

That night, the governor and his sister got in touch to discuss the check, phone and text records show. The governor’s wife, though, was apparently unhappy to not have been involved in the the process.

“I worked on this loan 4a year, not Bob,” she wrote to the governor’s sister.

On March 12 — the day the check was actually cashed – Williams and the governor himself exchanged calls.

The evidence is a mixed bag for prosecutors. One one hand, the records suggest the governor himself was talking to Jonnie at the same time the check was written and cashed. But the governor cannot deny that he received the $50,000, because it went to his own real estate company. And the texts suggest his wife might have had more discussions with Williams about the loan, perhaps without her husband’s knowledge.

Matthew Zapotosky
August 14, 11:58 am
  • Matthew Zapotosky August 14, 11:58 am

Governor knew Williams's brother worked on home, texts show

Former Va. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell won’t be able to deny knowledge that Donnie O. Williams, Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s brother, did maintenance work at his home in suburban Richmond.

In fact, text messages show the governor was keenly interested in the work getting done.

On Dec. 6, 2012, the messages show that McDonnell asked his wife for a status check on Donnie Williams’s progress. On January 12 of the following year, he did the same thing, writing: “Any update on what Johnny’s brother has done?” Maureen McDonnell responded: “What r u anxious to get done?”

Questioning an FBI agent who reviewed the records, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Faulconer noted that the governor spelled Jonnie Williams’s first name wrong – likely a way to help convince jurors that businessman was not the governor’s personal friend.

Donnie Williams had previously testified that the governor knew of the work, saying the two men talked, at one point, about air conditioning repair. But the texts back up his testimony, showing jurors that the governor was very much interested in what the Williams family could do for his.

Former Va. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell won’t be able to deny knowledge that Donnie O. Williams, Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s brother, did maintenance work at his home in suburban Richmond.

In fact, text messages show the governor was keenly interested in the work getting done.

On Dec. 6, 2012, the messages show that McDonnell asked his wife for a status check on Donnie Williams’s progress. On January 12 of the following year, he did the same thing, writing: “Any update on what Johnny’s brother has done?”

Maureen McDonnell responded: “What r u anxious to get done?”

Questioning an FBI agent who reviewed the records, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Faulconer noted that the governor spelled Jonnie Williams’s first name wrong — likely a way to help convince jurors that the businessman was not the governor’s personal friend.

Donnie Williams had previously testified that the governor knew of the work, saying the two men talked, at one point, about air conditioning repair. But the texts back up his testimony, showing jurors that the governor was very much interested in what the Williams family could do for his.

Matthew Zapotosky
August 14, 12:03 pm
  • Matthew Zapotosky August 14, 12:03 pm

Flurry of calls as state police question first lady

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell called first lady Maureen McDonnell about 15 minutes before she was to be interviewed by state police investigators in February 2013, phone records show. About 3 p.m. — when previous testimony indicates she was likely still talking with the investigators — he called the director of the mansion, then the first lady’s office, then the governor’s mansion, the records show.

It is unclear what — if anything — Robert McDonnell was able to communicate to his wife on any of the calls. The call before the interview lasted only a minute, and each of the other calls lasted no more than three. The director of the mansion has testified previously that the governor simply asked if his wife was out of the meeting yet.

The interview has been a point of contention at the trial; other witnesses have testified that Maureen McDonnell went in with no lawyer, was not advised of her right to remain silent and emerged upset that she had been “set up.”

Phone records show Maureen McDonnell called her daughter Cailin about about 3:18 p.m. on the day of the interview, and minutes later, Cailin called her back. The two talked for about 11 minutes.

When they hung up, the first lady dialed Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The call lasted just six seconds.

Matthew Zapotosky
August 14, 12:06 pm
  • Matthew Zapotosky August 14, 12:06 pm
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