The Washington Post
Local ⋅ Live Blog

Updates: Day 11 of the McDonnell corruption trial

Resize Text
Print Article
August 11, 2014
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell reaches for the door of the federal courthouse in Richmond on Monday as his corruption trial enters its third week. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell reaches for the door of the federal courthouse in Richmond on Monday as his corruption trial enters its third week. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

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 Monday resumed hearing testimony from witnesses during a trial in federal court in Richmond.

 Interactive: McDonnell gifts list | Twitter: Latest | Previous days: The trial | Photos Indictment

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Former attorney general Jerry Kilgore testified Monday that there was little progress made between November 2011 and February 2012 in getting Star Scientific’s effort to obtain tobacco commission funding for its product off the ground.

Kilgore, who was serving as the company’s lobbyist at the time, repeatedly told Star chief executive Jonnie Williams that the company needed to get researchers at the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University on board with the project. In February 2012, Kilgore testified that he got a call from Gov. Robert McDonnell’s chief policy adviser, Jasen Eige.

Kilgore said Eige told him the governor had asked him about the project. According to Kilgore, Eige said, “I’ve been asked by the governor to call and show support” for Star at U-Va. and VCU. Kilgore also recalled Eige saying that he “didn’t think we should be pressuring U-Va. and VCU on this research.”

(Eige himself testified that he called Kilgore after receiving an e-mail from the first lady about university research, and before receiving an e-mail from the governor on the same subject.)

Kilgore said he told Eige there would be nothing wrong with the governor showing support for the project. “I thought it’d be helpful,” Kilgore said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry asked Kilgore whether there would have been anything inherently illegal about doing that.

“Wouldn’t be asking if there were,” Kilgore responded.

Not long after, as the clock struck exactly 5:30 p.m., Judge James R. Spencer interrupted Dry: “Are you almost finished?” he asked.

Dry responded that he believed he had about 15 minutes more of questions for Kilgore.

“We might as well look out for the comfort of our jurors,” Spencer said, announcing that he was calling it a day.

Court will resume at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, with Jerry Kilgore still on the stand.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

First we heard Jonnie Williams’s account of a lunch held at the Berkeley Hotel in August 2011. Then we heard the account of the first lady’s chief of staff Mary-Shea Sutherland. Now we have heard the version told by the lunch’s third participant, former attorney general Jerry Kilgore.

Kilgore testified that he was asked to lunch by Sutherland as a friendly catch-up. Sutherland worked for Kilgore in the 1990s and he said the two lunch together from time to time. At this lunch, he was surprised to find that Jonnie Williams was joining them.

He said Sutherland began talking about how unhappy she was working for the first lady and how she wanted to leave her job. “She’s very emotional that day,” Kilgore said.

Then Sutherland and Williams began talking about the first lady’s chief of staff potentially going to work for Williams.

“It seems to me that it’s a job negotiation in that meeting more than anything else,” Kilgore said, describing how the two went back and forth about various ways Sutherland could go to work for him or his company, Star Scientific. Williams suggested that Kilgore’s firm McGuire Woods could hire Sutherland and bill Williams for her work. Kilgore said the firm had no appropriate position.

He said Sutherland brought up the idea of going to back to work for her previous employer, a Richmond area event planning firm, and bringing in Williams as a client. He said the lunch ended with Williams asking for the firm to draw up a proposal and send it to Kilgore.

Kilgore said he was surprised to hear he would play that role in the discussion. A few weeks later, the firm sent over a proposed contract to take Williams on as a client. Kilgore said he tried to call Williams several times to discuss the proposal but could never get him on the phone. Finally, he sent the proposal to Bob Pokusa, Star Scientific’s general counsel.

In September 2011, Kilgore said he asked Williams about the contract. The businessman responded that he could not hire Sutherland because it would be “poaching” from the first lady’s office.

“He said he needed the support of the first lady for his product and he didn’t want to make her mad,” Kilgore said.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·
Jonnie Williams leaves the federal courthouse in Richmond after testifying on the third day of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen's corruption trial on Wednesday. Williams takes the stand again on Thursday. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Alexa Welch Edlund)

Jonnie Williams leaves the federal courthouse in Richmond after testifying on the third day of former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen’s corruption trial. (Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Former Attorney Gen. Jerry Kilgore has testified that he was told repeatedly by his client, Jonnie Williams, in the summer of 2011 that the governor and first lady supported his company Star Scientific and its product Anatabloc.

For instance, on Aug. 12, 2011, Kilgore and his partner Chris Nolan were asked to attend a meeting with Gov. Bob McDonnell’s chief of staff Martin Kent and his chief counsel Jasen Eige. During that meeting, Kent and Eige told Kilgore that they were uncomfortable with plans to hold a launch event for Anatabloc at the governor’s mansion. They told him Williams should hold his launch at the Virginia biotech research park instead.

Kilgore said he told Williams about the meeting, but his client was adamant: “He said the first lady and governor wanted it to be at the mansion so it would be at the mansion,” Kilgore said. “He always would say they supported the project and he needed to have it at the mansion.”

In response to questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry, Kilgore said he did not know, at the time of those conversations, that his client had paid for the first lady to go shopping in New York City, that he had given $15,000 for catering at the governor’s daughter’s wedding or that he had loaned the first lady $50,000.

Kilgore said he believed Eige and Kent had been successful in their mission to cancel an Anatabloc launch event at the mansion until he heard from Eige again on Aug. 29, the night before a lunch scheduled for Aug. 30. Eige alerted him to a news release Star Scientific intended to release that bragged of support from the governor. Kilgore said he called either Williams or Star general counsel Bob Pokusa to tell them the release needed to be toned down.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

In August 2011, Jerry Kilgore and his partner Chris Nolan laid out a timeline for Star Scientific officials as to how they could go about seeking tobacco commission money in Virginia.

On a timeline prepared at that time, the lobbyists wrote that there should be an “ask” made directly to the governor. “Consequently, we need to place this issue on the governor’s radar in September.”

“This is our wish list” of what we wanted Star to do, Kilgore testified.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Before 2011, former Va. attorney general Jerry Kilgore said he knew Jonnie R. Williams Sr. as a “political person” and “donor” who he would call for financial support to political campaigns. But that July, Kilgore testified, Williams called him ​to see whether he and his lobby firm could help him with Williams’s new product, Anatabloc.

“He wanted to talk about getting research dollars from the state for his product,” Kilgore testified.

Kilgore testified that he and Williams met for lunch, and he advised the businessman to “look broadly at state government for research dollars.” Williams, Kilgore testified, seemed focused mostly on the state tobacco commission for funding.

Kilgore testified that Williams claimed to have then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s support.

“During that meeting, he did say that the governor and the first lady supported his product and would support getting research on his product,” Kilgore testified.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

​Now on the stand for prosecutors is Jerry Kilgore, who served as attorney general of Virginia from 2002 to 2005 and, more recently, was hired by Jonnie Williams as Star Scientific attempted to seek state research funding in 2011.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry began with Kilgore by getting him to explain his relationship both with Williams and with former governor Bob McDonnell. Kilgore said that he met Williams while running for attorney general and that the Star businessman had given substantial money, as well as in-kind donations of his private plane, to both Kilgore’s campaign for attorney general and then his campaign for governor in 2005. He said his relationship then was one of a “political supporter-candidate.”

Never, Kilgore testified, did Williams offer him personal money or loans, nor did he accept any.

As for McDonnell, Kilgore testified that he met the former governor in 1993 while serving as Secretary of Public Safety for then-Gov. George Allen. At the time, McDonnell served in the House of Delegates and carried many of Allen’s public safety related initiatives.

Later, McDonnell ran for attorney general in 2005, the same year Kilgore ran for governor. The two shared the Republican ticket. Dry asked Kilgore whether he and McDonnell ever made joint campaign appearances.

“Yes, absolutely,” Kilgore said. “Plenty of them.”

He then described his relationship with McDonnell: “Personal friend. Political ally. All of the above,” Kilgore said.

“Now, this may be painful, but when you ran for governor, what was the result?” Dry asked.

“I did not win,” Kilgore responded with a laugh. He was defeated by now-Sen. Tim Kaine.

And McDonnell? What was the result for him, Dry asked.

“He DID win,” Kilgore said, with another laugh.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

A University of Virginia official involved in discussions about whether and how the state university would pursue studies of Anatabloc and tobacco commission funding for those studies said she made a pros and cons list to aid in her thinking.

Notes written by Sharon Krueger and her testimony Monday suggested that she was uncomfortable with then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s connection to Anatabloc and the company selling it, Star Scientific.

On the pro side of Sharon Krueger’s list, pursuing the studies might enhance the governor’s perception that U-Va. was willing to work with local companies to aid in economic development.

On the con:

“Political pressure from Governor and impact on future U-Va. requests from the Governor,” she wrote.

But on cross examination, she offered a fairly significant caveat. She said she had never spoken with McDonnell personally, and most of her knowledge on the subject came from conversations with others or her own Internet research.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Sharon Krueger, an official in the office of University of Virginia’s vice president of research, on Monday described conversations that took place among university officials in the summer and fall of 2011 about a possible Anatabloc-related study.

At the time, Star Scientific had awarded planning grants to several University of Virginia doctors so they could seek funding to study of anatabine, the key compound in Star’s dietary supplement Anatabloc. Those grants were awarded at a lunch held at the governor’s mansion that was intended to mark the entry of Anatabloc to the market in August 2011.

Star wanted to get funding from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to fund full-scale projects, and commission officials wanted the university to submit the application for those dollars because the commission did not accept applications from for-profit institutions.

Krueger testified about the discomfort of university officials with the role of Gov. Robert McDonnell in the project. In an e-mail in November 2011, Krueger wrote her boss Mark Kroll: “Personally, I think the governor’s wife or assistant may look like gov. is ‘influencing’ UVA” to conduct the research. “Just odd-IMHO,” she wrote.

Her boss wrote back: “Kind of makes me uncomfortable.”

The conversation occurred as university officials prepared for a conference call with Star officials to discuss the possible tobacco commission grant application.

Krueger then conducted some research on Star Scientific and located a photograph posted to the company’s Facebook page that featured Bob McDonnell speaking at an event for its product CigRx.

In court, Krueger reviewed handwritten notes she took that same month during a phone call with University of Virginia researcher John Lazo. They show that she wrote that the governor wanted to get something good out of tobacco and wanted tobacco commission money for the project.

In another e-mail, discussing the potential of a visit by a Star official to campus, she wrote about the possibility that a state official might attend. “This is the awkward part … as Gov McDonnell has publicly announced his support for the parent company Star Scientfic,” she wrote in a note to others. She said the photograph she had found online and a news release regarding the mansion event had given her that idea.

She said she was afraid of the university being placed in a “compromised” position and appearing to do particular research at the behest of a private company or a politician.

Star Scientific Chairman Paul Perito testified that when that conference call with U-Va. officials finally came off in November 2011, it was clear to him that the company had been passed off to lower-level bureaucrats who had no intention of pressing ahead with the project.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Under questioning from a defense attorney late Monday afternoon, the man who helped manage two Virginia Beach rental properties for former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his sister acknowledged that they had enough money to cover expenses for the two houses.

Michael Uncapher, McDonnell’s sister’s ex-husband, who helped manage a real estate company his then-wife owned with McDonnell, testified that any late payments the company made on two rental properties in Virginia Beach might have been a result of his own mismanagement rather than a sign of the real estate company’s legitimate financial woes. Responding to questions from McDonnell defense attorney Daniel Small, Uncapher acknowledged that when his wife had a difficult pregnancy in 2008 — and his newborn daughter had some health problems — managing the properties moved to the bottom of his priority list.

Uncapher also acknowledged, under Small’s questioning, that he moved money out of the real estate company’s accounts into others, and that might explain late payments. Small did not press him for details, nor did he provide any.

That testimony might undercut prosecutors’ assertion that the governor and his company were in financial trouble, and that is why he sought the generosity of Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. Uncapher provided some specific examples to dismantle that notion. He said, for example, that his ex-wife made more than $500,000 in 2012, and within days of her real estate company receiving a $50,000 loan from Williams, she received a $70,000 bonus at work.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Michael Uncapher, who in 2011 and 2012 was married to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s sister, testified Monday that he spoke with Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams twice. Both times, the governor’s wife, Maureen, was on the phone first and then handed the phone to Williams, who indicated that he wanted details of the financial state of MoBo Real Estate, the partnership the governor had formed with his sister.

Uncapher said the first conversation occurred in the summer of 2011. He said he next spoke with Williams in the summer of 2012. At the time, Uncapher said he believed that Williams was interested in buying one or both of the investment properties or perhaps investing in the partnership.

But in 2012, Williams instead lent the partnership $50,000, and then an additional $20,000.

Uncapher said he was told the money was a loan but was told no payments would be required for three years. He said too that he recalled no discussion of paperwork or documentation of the loan. There had also been conversation about allowing Williams to use the beach properties if he wished. “He could use it and that would offset some payments,” Uncapher testified.

But, Uncapher said, to his knowledge, Williams never did use the homes. What’s more, during his time handling the bills for MoBo, Uncapher said he was not aware of any repayment checks sent to Williams.

That concluded prosecutors’ direct examination of Uncapher. Next, he will face questions from Dan Small, an attorney for Bob McDonnell.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Michael Uncapher, the ex-brother-in-law of Bob McDonnell, has just finished explaining the increasing money woes that faced the real estate partnership of McDonnell and his sister. That partnership owned two beach homes in the Virginia Beach area, Uncapher said under questioning from prosecutor David Harbach.

By March 2011, e-mails from Uncapher to the governor and his sister indicated that each owed nearly $12,000 a month just to keep up with mortgage payments. In that month, the e-mails show that the governor and his sister were looking to refinance five separate loans taken out on the two properties and a third at the Wintergreen resort in an effort to get the payments down.

But some bad news arrived. Ted Yoder, a mortgage broker, wrote to the governor and informed him that the bank would not be able to accommodate his refinancing request due to “insane” government regulations. “I recommend that you let Bruce and I work on a private solution for you,” Yoder wrote. “You are the best governor in our great nation and I am sure Bruce and I can find supporters to help you out.”

Uncapher testified that Yoder was referring to Virginia Beach developer Bruce Thompson. Uncapher said he spoke with Thompson about marketing the properties but not about a loan.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

A Virginia Beach radiologist, who at one point was offered an appointment to a state medical board, lent Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his sister $50,000 to help them support two struggling rental properties they owned together, the sister’s ex-husband testified Monday.

The ex-husband, Michael Uncapher, helped his then-wife, Maureen C. McDonnell, and her brother manage the properties in Virginia Beach at the time, and was involved in receiving the loan money from the radiologist, Paul Davis. His account appeared designed to drive home the point that McDonnell’s properties were in financial distress and that he was seeking benefactors to support them.

Jonnie R. Williams Sr. would later loan $70,000 to the real estate company that McDonnell owned with his sister, though that transaction seemed to be accompanied by far less formality and documentation.

Uncapher testified that he met Davis at a Christmas Party in December 2009, and the doctor wrote a $9,900 check to the real estate company shortly thereafter. That payment seems to have been accompanied by $100 in cash, and Davis followed up with two more installments, both in the form of $20,000 checks, Uncapher testified.

Notably, documents suggest that all those involved seemed to agree to terms; the real estate company was to pay back the $50,000 loan over five years, with a 7.5 percent interest rate. That is important because prosecutors have argued that Williams’s loans to the real estate company were somewhat lacking in documentation.

Though Uncapher did not testify to it, Davis was offered an appointment to a seat reserved for a board-certified radiologist on the Radiological Technology Advisory Board some time around August 2010 — which is after the loans were made. In a 2013 interview with The Washington Post, Davis, who said he met McDonnell in church and has been friends with the governor for about 12 years, said he believes the appointment offer was unrelated to the financial assistance he provided the governor. He testified that the transaction was a “pure business loan.”

Davis said in 2013 that he declined the appointment because he believed it would take him away from his lucrative medical practice. Previous testimony has indicated that Davis is now deceased.

Uncapher also testified Monday that McDonnell’s father at some point loaned his children more than $100,000 for their real estate company. He, too, has died, according to previous testimony in the case.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Defense attorneys have tried to argue that the governor and first lady were not in financial distress when they borrowed money from Jonnie Williams. But the governor’s former brother-in-law has now testified that the governor and his sister were definitely losing money on two beach houses they purchased as investment properties in Virginia Beach in 2005 and 2006.

Michael Uncapher, who was married to the governor’s sister at the time, handled bills and other money issues for MoBo real estate, which managed the properties. He said the homes were purchased at the height of the real estate market and their value began to sink almost immediately. Between 2008 and 2012, he estimated that the governor and his sister were losing $50,000 to $60,000 a year on the properties.

Prosecutor David Harbach showed Uncapher a series of e-mails dating to 2009 that showed that the governor and his sister tried to sell the properties but were concerned that they were not going to get enough money. “Ouch,” the governor wrote his sister and Uncapher in April 2009 as they discussed sales price. He indicated that they needed to come away with “$1.5 million to break even” on the larger of the two properties.

By August 2009, with at least one of the properties on the market, a real estate agent was recommending dropping the the sales price to $1.399 million and putting the second house on the market at $900,000. McDonnell’s sister wrote that “was not possible.”

“We’ll either need to take a hit on the sales price or come up with $60,000 in a few weeks to make through another off season,” the governor’s sister wrote to him and her then-husband.

By December 2009, Uncapher testified that the three were still looking for a way to sell the homes or for an investor who could pump more money into the partnership.

“Any luck finding a magical partner?” he wrote the two of them.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Prosecutors’ second witness after lunch is Michael Uncapher, ex-husband of former governor Robert F. McDonnell’s sister.

Uncapher is important because he had some involvement in the management of two rental properties in Virginia Beach that McDonnell owned with his sister, Maureen C. McDonnell. Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. actually directed $70,000 in loans to the brother-sister pair through their company, MoBo Real Estate Partners.

Uncapher testified that he officially divorced the governor’s sister this year, though they had been separated since October 2012.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell delivers 2010 response to the State of the Union address. Lisa Hicks-Thomas is seen behind the governor. (Courtesy C-SPAN)

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell delivers 2010 response to the State of the Union address. Lisa Hicks-Thomas is seen behind the governor. (Courtesy C-SPAN)

Lunch has ended at the federal corruption trial of Bob and Maureen McDonnell and now on the stand is former secretary of administration Lisa Hicks-Thomas.

Hicks-Thomas was the superior of Sara Wilson, the human resources management director who was on the stand before the lunch break. In response to questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber, Hicks-Thomas has described her own version of the events of a March 2012 meeting in which the governor praised Anatabloc. Her version is somewhat more helpful to prosecutors than was Wilson’s.

Hicks-Thomas testified that she, Wilson, McDonnell and chief of staff Martin Kent attended the governor’s meeting to discuss the state employee health plan and ways to lower health costs in the plan. At some point during the meeting, Hicks-Thomas testified that McDonnell pulled a bottle of Anatabloc out of his pocket and told the others that he and his wife took the dietary supplement and they worked for him.

“He said it would be good for state employees, and he asked us if we would meet with them,” Hicks-Thomas said.

Indicating that Anatabloc would be good for state employees might have implied that the governor believed the state employee health plan should cover the pills. That’s exactly what Star sought in a meeting with Wilson.

Hicks-Thomas said neither she nor Wilson knew what the product was, so they went down to her office and Googled it on her computer.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·
Federal prosecutor Jessica D. Aber Monday questioned Sara Wilson, a state official who met with a Star Scientific executive in 2012.

On Monday, federal prosecutor Jessica D. Aber, pictured, questioned Sara Wilson, a state official who met with a Star Scientific executive in 2012. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

At a meeting with a few top staffers in his office in March 2012, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell pulled out a bottle of Anatabloc and talked of how it had personally helped him and his wife, according to a staffer who was there.

The staffer, Virginia Department of Human Resources Management Director Sara Wilson, testified Monday that “there was no ask” from the governor, and she did not leave with the impression that he wanted anything specific of her. But as she walked away, Wilson testified that another top aide who was there, former secretary of administration Lisa Hicks-Thomas, “turned around and looked at me and said, ‘he wants us to meet with these people.’ ”

“I said, ‘I didn’t hear that,’ ” Wilson testified. “She said, ‘Trust me. That’s what he wants.’ ”

The exchange is important, because jurors could view the meeting as evidence that McDonnell was actively promoting Anatabloc for use in state employees’ health-care plans. Wilson testified that the general purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways in which the state plan could give employees more data and control in their personal health decisions.

A few weeks earlier, too, Wilson testified that David Dean, a sales and marketing official for Star Scientific, had dropped by her office unannounced to pitch her on using Anatabloc in state employees’ health-care plans. Wilson said she told him the state plans did not cover dietary supplements, though she invited him to send along more materials about the science of what he was selling.

The pitch came on the same day in February 2012 that health-care leaders and others were invited to the governor’s mansion for what has become a highly controversial reception. Others have testified previously that Jonnie R. Williams Sr. was allowed to add to the guest list of that event doctors and Star employees, largely because of first lady Maureen McDonnell’s intervention.

Wilson was insistent, though, that the governor did not seem to be asking her to do anything with Anatabloc, nor did anything ever come of the pitch from Dean. She said she met with Dean again in March — the day after the governor had pulled out the bottle — but that was not at the governor’s request. And she said after the governor pulled out the bottle, she and Hicks-Thomas searched Anatabloc on Google, but nothing more seemed to come of it. The supplement was not added to employees’ plans.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

We have moved on to the second witness of the day at the trial of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

Sara Wilson, who served under McDonnell and still serves as director of human resource management, is now being questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Faulconer conducted only a brief redirect examination of Bob McDonnell’s former chief of staff Martin Kent.

About Mary-Shea Sutherland, Kent confirmed that the governor, at least at first, wanted Sutherland to stay in her position at the time when she was discussing leaving it. Likewise, he confirmed that while Sutherland did not tell him she was negotiating for a job with Jonnie Williams, she had made clear her intention to leave state government and that he was not surprised to learn of her job talks.

Faulconer also asked Kent more about Maureen McDonnell’s law enforcement interview in February 2013. When Kent was contemplating attending that session, was he planning to attend it as “Mrs. McDonnell’s personal private attorney?”

“No,” Kent answered.

“Did Mr. or Mrs. McDonnell ever ask you about having a personal lawyer at the interview?” Faulconer asked.

“I don’t recall being asked about it,” he said.

Kent has now stepped down from the witness stand.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

During his cross examination of Robert McDonnell’s former chief of staff Martin Kent on Monday, a lawyer for Maureen McDonnell teased out more details about the Feb. 15, 2013, interview that law enforcement conducted with the first lady as the investigation of the couple was getting rolling.

That’s the one where the first lady allegedly lied about details of her and her husband’s relationship with Jonnie Williams.

Attorney William Burck showed Kent the e-mail he received from Col. Steven Flaherty, head of the state police, requesting the session. “We want to wrap up the chef Todd case. Planning to go to grand jury next week,” Flaherty wrote. Then he asked whether the first lady was available for a two-hour meeting, noting in parenthesis that police “probably won’t need that long.”

Kent testified that based on Flaherty’s e-mail, he assumed the only topic of conversation would be the investigation then underway into whether chef Todd Schneider had stolen food from the executive mansion. Kent said he discussed the matter with the governor and decided that the first lady would meet with state police, but that he would attend as well.

Later, he testified that he got a call from the deputy chief of the state police, who told Kent that he “would not be needed.”

Burck asked Kent whether he still had a choice to attend. “I did not believe I did,” Kent said. “It was made clear to me that I was not invited.”

Kent confirmed that Maureen McDonnell took no lawyer to that session.

Burck then concluded his cross-examination of Kent in a way now familiar to the jury from past witnesses:

“Did Jonnie Williams receive any state money?” Burck asked.

“No,” Kent said.

“State contracts?”

“No,” Kent said.

“Board appointments?”

“No,” Kent said.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Under cross examination from defense attorney William Burck, Martin Kent, Robert F. McDonnell’s former chief of staff Monday poked some holes in the credibility of his counterpart in the first lady’s office — a key witness for prosecutors.

Perhaps most notably, Kent testified Tuesday that Mary-Shea Sutherland, Maureen McDonnell’s former chief of staff, never told him that Jonnie R. Williams Sr. had given a $15,000 check to help pay for the catering costs at the wedding of Cailin McDonnell, one of the governor’s daughters. Sutherland testified last week that she had informed Kent of the contribution, saying: “It was a large amount from a donor, and I didn’t want to be the only person with knowledge of it.”

Kent said Sutherland similarly kept him in the dark about a New York City shopping trip that she took with Williams and the first lady, and about a dress that Williams bought for her boss on that trip. He said Sutherland also did not reveal to him that she was working to arrange a job with Williams or his company.

Defense attorneys have suggested that Sutherland was secretly helping Williams navigate the governor’s office and working behind her bosses’ backs to go work for him. Kent’s testimony lent some credence to that assertion, at the very least calling into question portions of Sutherland’s own account. She asserted firmly when she testified last week that when she helped Williams, she was simply doing her job, and her desire to leave the first lady’s office was hardly a secret.

Kent revealed, too, for the first time, that Sutherland had been “involuntarily separated” from her job with the first lady in October 2011. While the precise circumstances of that are unclear, the assertion raises some questions about Sutherland’s testimony positing herself as desperately wanting to leave despite the governor’s wish that she stay.

Load More
No More Posts
Comments
Most Read
Comments
Comments
×