Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell, center, flanked by daughters Rachel, left, and Cailin, right, heads into the Federal Courthouse in Richmond on Monday. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, James Wallace)
Cailin McDonnell-Young, the McDonnells’ daughter whose 2011 wedding is shaping up to be a major pillar in prosecutors’ corruption case against her parents, insisted Tuesday that it was always her intent to pay for all the costs associated with her nuptials when she was called as the prosecution’s second witness Tuesday.
But responding to questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber, she was forced to acknowledge that her intent did not turn into reality — and that others paid for many costs and trinkets.
A friend, for example, let the bridal party use a limo to get from the ceremony to the reception, McDonnell-Young testified. She said she paid only $43 on a dress that was valued over $1,000 at a Virginia Beach dress shop. And she said others footed the bill for bridesmaids’ jewelry, engraved silver picture frames for guests and even the wedding rings.
McDonnell-Young cried softly on the witness stand soon after Aber questioned her about the items, as the prosecutor flashed wedding pictures on a screen in the courtroom. The judge soon declared a brief break in the proceedings.
After taking a break to allow the witness to compose herself, the McDonnells’ daughter resumed her testimony.
She recalled how her parents took the couple to the airport for their honeymoon in the wee hours of the morning, with someone from the governor’s executive protection unit behind the wheel.
On the ride to the airport, McDonnell-Young recalled that her mother presented the couple with a wedding gift: 1,000 shares of Star Scientific stock. Maureen McDonnell had prepared a certificate of some kind to symbolize the gift.
“She thought it was going to be really good [as an investment],” McDonnell-Young said.
McDonnell-Young said she was familiar with the product, which her mother had recommended to her because “I have a lot of joint and body issues.” But she apparently was not aware that her mother had bought the shares with part of the $50,000 Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams had lent the first lady. Young said her mother told her she’d made the stock purchase with part of the inheritance Maureen McDonnell received after her father’s death.
Maureen McDonnell told Young that she planned to give 1,000 shares of Star stock to each of her children when they married.
Responding to questions from Robert F. McDonnell’s attorney, McDonnell-Young told jurors she was now embarrassed to have accepted gifts or other contributions for her wedding, and she wished she could go back in time and throw a simple, “small, backyard” affair.
“Our wedding now has this black cloud over it,” she said. “You can’t look back at it with a happy memory.”
McDonnell-Young said the limousine came from a doctor and longtime family friend who is now deceased, and the picture frames given to guests came from state Del. David Ramadan (R). She said the governor had nothing to do with either gift, nor was he involved in procuring the steeply discounted dress.
“No, sir. That was all me,” she told her father’s defense attorney.
McDonnell-Young said it was “very flattering” to have received the niceties, but she was “not going out asking for any gifts or anything from anybody.” She said she and her husband put more than $12,000 of their own money into the wedding, even depositing regular sums from their paychecks into a “wedding fund.”
On the evening Dec. 25, 2012, after Christmas dinner was over the and the dishes all cleaned up, Maureen McDonnell sat down McDonnell-Young and her twin brothers. The first lady had printed forms for all of them, said McDonnell-Young, who said she could not recall if her father or two sisters were there.
The forms would be used to create stock accounts for each of them, allowing Maureen McDonnell to move Star Scientific shares into the children’s names. Maureen McDonnell urged them to fill out the forms right away — before the start of the new year– because of some change in tax policy that presumably would cut into the value.
Prosecutors have alleged that Maureen McDonnell transferred her own shares of Star stock to her children in late in December 2012 to evade state reporting requirements; the McDonnells made the transfer, prosecutors have alleged, so that at the time they submitted state disclosure forms, they could claim that they owned no stock that needed reporting.
But McDonnell-Young told the jury that the stock being transferred to her that December was part of her parents’ wedding gift, which also included some furniture. McDonnell-Young had married in June of 2011, a year and a half earlier. But she said she and her husband had never gotten around to opening the stock brokerage account necessary to formally take possession of the shares.
She scrambled to meet the end-of-the-year deadline, swapping e-mails with a broker on New Year’s Eve to make the transfer happen.
“I know mom really wanted it done last year,” Young wrote in an e-mail read aloud to the jury.