Robert F. McDonnell’s communications chief described the former governor as a “thrifty” man who had holes in his shoes, wore bad neckties and used a milk crate for a briefcase. Tucker Martin also said the governor had never lied to him or asked him to lie to the press on his behalf.
A witness for the prosecution, Martin testified on cross examination by defense attorney Henry Asbill that the $6,000 to $7,000 Rolex watch that Williams bought for McDonnell was out of character for him.
“We used to make fun of him because he had holes in his shoes,” Martin said. “We used to give him ties for Christmas because I didn’t like the way his ties looked.”
Instead of carrying a briefcase, the governor lugged around whatever he needed in a milk crate.
“He was thrifty,” Martin said.
Once the gifts scandal broke, it was Martin’s responsibility to respond to press inquiries until the governor hired a private spokesman for that purpose.
“Did my client ever ask you to lie for him and Jonnie Williams and Star?” Asbill asked.
Said Martin, who worked for McDonnell for eight years: “I don’t think he would ever ask me to lie.”
Asbill went over a number of news articles that quoted Martin providing information that he now concedes was untrue.
Martin told reporters at the time of Cailin McDonnell’s June 2011 wedding, for instance, that the McDonnell family was paying for it. In fact, Williams paid the $15,000 catering tab and many other people contributed items ranging from the wedding dress to a limousine.
When The Washington Post reported in 2013 that the governor returned to Richmond from Jonnie Williams’s Smith Mountain Lake vacation home in the executive’s Ferrari, Martin told the paper that there was no “recreational use” of the vehicle, and that the governor was merely doing Williams a favor by moving the car to Richmond. But Williams’s aide has testified that a Star employee drove the car out to the lake house for the McDonnell family’s use, and prosecutors presented an invoice of the transportation service used to pick up the employee after he dropped it off.
Asbill suggested that McDonnell might have been in the dark about how the Ferrari wound up at the lake house.
As for statements about who paid for the wedding, Martin said he had not known about the catering payment. Martin also said that when members of the media had inquired about who was paying for the wedding, their main concern was whether any taxpayer money was being spent on the event.
“If a family friend gave a gift, would you consider that family paying?” Asbill asked.
Martin did not get a chance to answer. Prosecutors objected to the question and Judge Spencer sustained it.