In March 2012, soon after she returned home from a family vacation to Jamaica, Maureen C. McDonnell said she received a series of unusual text messages from her sister-in-law, the first lady of Virginia.
The first lady, whose first name is also Maureen, was asking — on behalf of an “anxious friend” — if her sister-in-law had received a FedEx package with a check, according to the texts and Maureen C. McDonnell’s testimony. The two women exchanged a few messages, and Maureen C. McDonnell and her husband, Michael Uncapher, eventually called the first lady.
The first lady, hearing Michael on the phone, hung up, Maureen C. McDonnell testified Tuesday.
“She did not want to speak to Michael,” McDonnell testified. “She wanted to speak to me.”
Jurors have already seen the text exchange and know now that the package contained a $50,000 check from Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s Starwood Trust written to MoBo Real Estate Partners, the real estate company former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell owned with his sister to manage their Virginia Beach rental properties. As she testified Tuesday, Maureen C. McDonnell gave the jury a window into the behind-the-scenes confusion and anger surrounding the money, and into the first lady’s vehement claims that she was the person to have arranged it.
McDonnell testified that she got in touch with her brother some time after the first lady hung up, but the two talked mainly about her trip to Jamaica. The trip was a sort-of “reconciliation,” she said, for her and her husband — who had been separated for some months before.
Late that night, Maureen C. McDonnell said, the first lady then sent another text, apparently angry that McDonnell had gotten in touch with her own brother directly about the check. The text said, in part: “I worked on this loan 4a year, not Bob.”
That text, which jurors had already seen, seems to provide strong evidence that the first lady was engaged in her own financial dealings with Williams. For her part, Maureen C. McDonnell said she was simply “perplexed by the bizarre messages.” She said the next day, she and Uncapher were still unsure what to do with the check.
Maureen C. McDonnell testified that on March 12, 2012, she talked briefly with her brother on the phone, and she could hear his wife screaming in the background.
“She was livid,” McDonnell testified. “I just heard some of the narrative that we heard earlier, that she worked on the loan, not Bob.”
Maureen C. McDonnell said her brother asked if he could call back later.
“It was very distracting,” Maureen C. McDonnell said. “She was angry.”
It wasn’t until later that night, Maureen C. McDonnell said, that she finally got details from her brother about the check. She said the $50,000 was apparently a balloon loan with a 2.5 percent interest rate that would be paid back in three years, with the vast majority of the repayment coming in March 2015. She said those terms, though, were not quite finalized.
“I don’t believe he had yet proposed this to Mr. Williams,” Maureen C. McDonnell said. “I don’t believe it was set.”
The timing is still somewhat confusing. Williams has said the governor and he met Feb. 29, 2012, to discuss a possible loan or stock deal to help support MoBo, and the check was written March 6. It was not deposited, though, until March 12, and Williams has said he and the governor were still finalizing terms in between. Phone records show the governor and Williams exchanged calls March 12.
Maureen C. McDonnell testified that her own knowledge of Williams was sparse. She said she first heard about the businessman in April 2011, when the first lady brought his name up at a family gathering as a possible purchaser of the Virginia Beach rental properties she owned with her brother. She said she was aware, too, that her husband, who managed the properties’ finances, had had some conversations with Williams.
McDonnell said she was unaware of all the gifts — including golf outings and a Rolex watch — Williams had bestowed on her brother and his family. Of the watch, she said her brother told her only, “his wife bought him a watch for Christmas.”