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Updates: Day six of the McDonnell corruption trial

August 4, 2014
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, surrounded by reporters, arrives for his trial at the federal courthouse on Thursday in Richmond. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Jonnie R. Williams Sr., far right, enters the courthouse with two of his attorneys. (Bob Brown/The Associated Press)

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.

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  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Prosecutors have concluded their questioning of Monica Block, the former scheduler to Robert F. McDonnell, and court has concluded for the day. Proceedings will pick up at 9:30 a.m. with Block’s cross-examination by the defense.

Before ending the day, Block was asked about e-mails she exchanged with Jerri Fulkerson, Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s assistant in May of 2011. Fulkerson informed Block that the governor would be attending a Star event in Florida on June 1. Block said she was surprised: “It was rare that someone would tell me something that the governor was doing and I didn’t know about it. I guess I was territorial about the schedule.”

She said she talked to the governor about it. He did not seemed surprised but she said it seemed as though he had not committed to attend the event. Ultimately, Block informed Fulkerson that McDonnell had “dad commitments,” since the event was three days before his daughter’s wedding and could not attend. It was attended instead by the first lady.

Block said she did not know Williams paid for the wedding reception for the governor’s daughter nor that he had loaned Maureen McDonnell money until those items were published in The Washington Post.

Block was asked if she viewed Williams as a personal friend of the governor or as a political donor. “I looked at him as a donor with a plane,” she said.

  • Laura Vozzella
  • ·

The scheduler who worked for then-governor Robert F. McDonnell was asked to shoehorn an event into his packed calendar at the very last minute. It was Feb. 3, 2011, in the middle of the General Assembly session, when the governor routinely had six events a night.

Scheduler Monica Block was told she had to find a way get McDonnell to the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond that night, for a gathering to mark the launch of CigRX, a new product from Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s Star Scientific.

Did she really have to, she asked Adam Zubowsky, the governor’s body man and future son-in-law.

“Yes. 102 loves Johnnie,” Zubowsky replied, using the state police’s numerical code for the first lady and misspelling the executive’s name.

“Why does 102 like him? Because he’s loaded?” Block responded.

Zubowsky replied: “Yep. He wanted to make the gown for the inauguration.”

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

Now on the stand for the government is Monica Block, who served as Robert F. McDonnell’s scheduler during the first years of his gubernatorial administration.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry showed Block an e-mail written to her and Adam Zubowksy, another McDonnell aide, in October 2010 from Cailin McDonnell. In the e-mail, the governor’s daughter says her father told her someone had offered their limo for use at her upcoming wedding.

“Do you remember who?” she asked. (On the stand, Cailin McDonnell said she was lent a limo by Paul Davis, whom she described as a close friend of the family who offered the car because he was already going to be traveling in it.)

Cailin McDonnell went on to write that her father had told her tons of offers from hotels, restaurants and other venues were coming in and asked for the names of any that had offered. She indicated she and her fiance were looking for a venue for their rehearsal dinner.

Block forwarded the e-mail to Zubowksy, with the message: “I knew this would happen. I quit.”

Asked why she had said that, she said she now wasn’t sure.

Zubowksy — who later married the governor’s eldest daughter — responded: “What are we going to do? I don’t recall huge favors. Easier to find a plane.”

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·
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)

Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell, center, flanked by daughters Rachel, left, and Cailin, right, heads into the Federal Courthouse in Richmond on Monday. (James Wallace/Richmond Times via AP)

Phil Cox, who served as Robert F. McDonnell’s chief political adviser, has been passed off for cross-examination to William Burck, who is Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer.

Under questioning, Cox has given a bit of ammunition to the so-called “crush” defense.

“She adored him,” Cox said of the first lady’s attitude toward dietary supplement executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. “She would light up when he walked into a room.” In response, he said, Williams was “very friendly. He returned those feelings.”

He said the two appeared to be good friends. “She was always talking about Jonnie,” he said.

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

After blasting Maureen McDonnell from the stand, the man who once led Robert F. McDonnell’s political action committee gave much more flattering testimony about the former governor.

“He’s the least materialistic person I know,” Phil Cox said.

Under cross-examination by one of the governor’s defense lawyers, Cox said Bob McDonnell was only engaged in “constituent service” and “donor maintenance” when he sent Williams e-mails about Star and its stock price.

“Stock going great,” Bob McDonnell wrote in one message to Williams. “Alzheimer’s announcement really helped. That’s for coming to Romney event. Gov.”

Defense attorney John Brownlee suggested that e-mail was the sort of routine follow-up the governor would make with any voter or political donor. He compared his message to what the governor might do for someone who called into his monthly “Meet the Governor” radio show with a problem or concern, when he might say, “We’ll get your name and number and we’ll get back to you.”

Cox agreed and also said it was “very common” for governors to arrange for supporters to meet with state Cabinet officials.

Not long before, Cox had testified about how Maureen McDonnell had lambasted him for raising questions about the propriety of her accepting an Oscar de la Renta gown from Williams for her husband’s inauguration. He recalled an angry e-mail she fired off on Dec. 24, 2009, after he’d said he was not sure the gift would be legal. He had also warned that the optics of wearing a $20,000 to $30,000 designer gown in the midst of a deep recession would not be good.

“It was sort of an insane rant of an e-mail and coming on Christams Eve, it angered me,” he said of the first lady’s message.

Cox said that Williams lent McDonnell’s Opportunity Virginia PAC his plane four times, and he publicly disclosed those flights as in-kind contributions worth a total of $79,000.

Brownlee showed Cox a 2012 e-mail from Monica Block, the governor’s scheduler. Block was alerting Cox that Williams had changed some travel plans and that his plane would be available to the governor for some unspecified trip.

Cox asked Block in an e-mail if Williams was doing any business with the state. He said on the stand that he’d asked because under a fairly new law, the PAC could not accept the use of the plane if it was owned by someone who was doing business with the state or seeking to do so.

Brownlee suggested that in raising that question, Cox was doing exactly what Bob McDonnell would have wanted him to do: making sure he was following the law.

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

Prosecutor David Harbach concluded his direct examination of Phil Cox with questions about the political adviser’s reaction to his longtime boss and friend’s interactions with Jonnie R. Williams Sr., when The Washington Post broke the story on March 31, 2013.

Cox said he first simply tried to find out, “Does The Washington Post have the story right, do they have the rights, right?”

He told Robert F. McDonnell: “Let’s get back to governing. Let’s go back to the business of governing.”

He said he thought the governor had made progress in refocusing on other business when The Post published a story on July 9, 2013, that revealed Williams had loaned $120,000 to Maureen McDonnell and to a small real estate company owned by the governor and his sister. He said he felt like the effort suffered a setback with the revelation.

“Did you tell the governor you were angry?” Harbach asked. “Yes,” Cox said.

“Did you tell him you were frustrated?” Cox said he had.

“Did you tell him that you though he had shown very poor judgement in taking the loans?” “Yes,” Cox said.

“It really set us back from a public relations standpoint,” he said. “It didn’t look good.”

Cox said that the governor responded that he felt badly about the whole thing.

“Did he blame his wife for the whole thing?” Harbach said.

“No,” Cox responded.

“Is that something, in your experience, that you expected the governor to do?” Harbach continued.

“No,” Cox responded.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Robert F. McDonnell’s chief political adviser, Phil Cox, said he received a joint phone call from the governor and first lady in 2012. On speakerphone, Maureen McDonnell invited him to join the couple on a vacation over Labor Day weekend at the Chatham Bars Inn resort on Cape Cod.

Cox said he was told Williams had won the trip at a charity auction. Previous testimony had indicated that the trip was unconnected to a different aborted trip to New York that Williams had won at a charity auction. Cox said he understood that Williams was to pay for the trip and told the governor on the phone call that he had to make sure it was reported correction.

Prosecutor David Harbach asked Cox: Did he think going on vacation with Williams was a bad idea? “Clearly, I didn’t. We went,” he responded. “I don’t recall thinking that. I calling making sure it was going to be reported correctly.”

Indeed, McDonnell’s annual financial disclosure form for 2012 did include the more than $7,000 vacation, indicating it came courtesy of Williams’s company Star Scientific.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

As he testified Monday, Phil Cox, a former McDonnell political adviser who now works as the executive director of the Republican Governors Association, took repeated shots at prosecutors’ star witness, referring to the businessman as a “snake oil salesman” whose presence around the Virginia governor worried him.

Cox testified that he spoke with Robert F. McDonnell a few times about his concerns over Jonnie R. Williams Sr., though he struggled to articulate what exactly those were or what Williams wanted form the governor. He said Williams “struck me as a very over-the-top salesman, and he seemed like he was trying to hard.” And Cox said he was skeptical of Williams’s claims about what his supplement could do.

“It was a cure for everything,” he testified. “I didn’t really believe in the product.”

Cox — who said he was unaware of some of the gifts Williams had lavished on the governor and his family — said he thought Williams probably wanted something from his boss, but also said “a lot of donors are looking for something.”

Cox’s swipes at Williams seemed to frustrate prosecutor David Harbach. Apparently believing that Cox was changing his account from the one he gave to grand jurors in November 2013, Harbach read Cox a portion of his grand jury testimony, in which Cox talked more stridently of concern that Williams wanted something from the governor.

It seemed, though, that Cox’s account Monday was largely consistent with what he had told grand jurors. And that account was not necessarily one that was flattering for prosecutors’ star witness.

  • Laura Vozzella
  • ·

On the day in 2012 when Robert F. McDonnell endorsed Mitt Romney for president, Maureen McDonnell was bent on promoting something else: Anatabloc.

That’s the testimony from Phil Cox, then the head of the Virginia governor’s political action committee.

Cox testified that he and other McDonnell associates flew from New York to South Carolina on Jan. 20, 2012, to endorse the former Massachusetts governor for the Republican nomination. Bob McDonnell was in an airport conference room, doing interview after interview with national media outlets, when suddenly there was a flurry of activity in the room. Maureen McDonnell and Jonnie R. Williams Sr. had arrived.

“My understanding was they were trying to get a meeting with Governor Romney,” Cox said. The purpose? To talk about Anatabloc.

Cox said “it wasn’t going to happen,” and he got them out of the room.

Cox also testified that he witnessed Maureen McDonnell tried to pitch Ann Romney on Anatabloc while they were all on a campaign bus shortly after the endorsement.

“Mrs. McDonnell was talking to Ann Romney about how Anatabloc could potentially cure MS,” he said. Ann Romney has multiple sclerosis.

Asked Ann Romney’s response, he replied, “She’s extremely classy. She listened.”

Asked for his own, Cox said, “I was horrified. I thought it was a train wreck. I thought it was improper that Maureen would try to push this product on Ann Romney, and I didn’t think it showed the governor in a great light.”

He said he interrupted the conversation and changed the subject. He said he couldn’t quite remember where the governor was at that moment, but thought he might have been in the back of the bus. He said he did not recall if he ever told McDonnell about it.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

On Christmas Eve 2009, Maureen McDonnell dashed off an e-mail to one of her husband’s advisers, complaining of how he had blocked Jonnie R. Williams Sr. from buying her a dress to wear at the governor’s inauguration, the adviser testified Monday.

“The e-mail,” Phil Cox testified. “literally had no basis in reality.” And coming on Christmas Eve, he said he “thought it was really inappropriate, and it really angered me.”

Cox, now the Republic Governors Association’s executive director, took the witness stand at the McDonnells’ trial after lunch Monday and began his testimony by describing the December 2009 meeting the McDonnells had with Williams, him and a few others at the Four Seasons hotel in New York. He said he heard discussion about an Oscar de la Renta dress that he believed Williams wanted to purchase for Maureen McDonnell to wear at her husband’s inauguration, and though he did not say so at the time, he “didn’t think it was a good idea.”

“I thought the optics of something like that were not ideal,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a recession. Are you going to wear a twenty- or thirty-thousand-dollar dress? Somebody’s going to write about that.”

Cox said he solicited the opinion of another McDonnell adviser, a lawyer, to help bat the idea down, and he believed that lawyer broke the news to the first lady. He said he then got an e-mail on Christmas Eve from Maureen McDonnell.

“She basically called into question my loyalty and said I didn’t have the best interests of her or her husband [in mind],” Cox said.

Cox said he drafted several responses — but sent none — and eventually told the governor himself about the e-mail when the governor called later to with him a happy holiday. He said the governor told him he would talk to his wife.

The episode — elicited as Cox was being questioned by prosecutors — might actually be helpful to Robert F. McDonnell’s defense attorneys. Cox described his former boss, the governor, in positive terms, while seeming to indicate Maureen McDonnell was the one acting inappropriately with respect to the gift. Defense attorneys have argued the governor did not know everything his wife was doing, and their marriage was so broken that they could not have conspired together to solicit Williams’s largesse.

Cox did admit the governor was “present” during the initial discussion about the dress.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Phil Cox — the former political adviser of Robert F. McDonnell who is now the executive director of the Republican Governors Association — once nixed a request from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. asking that the governor’s political action committee post tweets about Williams’s company, Star Scientific.

Prosecutor David Harbach showed Cox 2011 e-mail he received, forwarding an e-mail from Williams’s assistant, Jerri Fulkerson. In the note, Fulkerson asked that McDonnell’s staff review an article and “twitter about it or whatever.”

Cox e-mailed his response to fellow PAC staffers: “The Governor should not twitter about a product launch.”

Asked on the witness stand why he had taken that position, Cox said, “My opinion, as the political adviser, is that the governor not should a pitchman for a particular product. He should not be picking winners and loser in the market place.”

Cox said he felt there was a line between “supporting industry and supporting a particularly product. You’ve got to be careful about picking winners and losers.” He added that this is a “subjective” topic. “It’s a judgement call,” he said.

Cox said he never discussed Williams’s request with the governor or, more broadly, his suggestion that McDonnell not promote individual products. “I don’t think I needed to,” Cox said. “He got it.”

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

As a closing section of his redirect of Jonnie R. Williams Sr., prosecutor Michael Dry pressed two topics: First, the governor’s personal involvement in various interactions the dietary supplement executive had with the couple and second, that documents support various parts of his story.

For instance, Dry noted that Williams had testified that he did not have any advance conversation with the governor about the launch of Anatabloc at the governor’s mansion, an event planned by the first lady. Now Dry asked Williams: Who attended that event?

“The governor,” Williams answered.

“When he came in, did he look surprised? Did he say, gosh, here’s Jonnie? Did he look surprised with the Anatabloc at the place settings?”

Williams said he did not.

Dry flashed an itinerary drawn up for a vacation to Bar Harbor, Maine, that Maureen McDonnell had pressed for in 2011. Williams testified that the first lady pushed to go ahead with the trip, even as Williams told her a hurricane was approaching the East Coast. Ultimately, the trip was canceled because a state of emergency was declared in Virginia. That trip, Dry noted, was intended to take place three days before the mansion launch. Williams agreed it was.

Williams then testified he was “100 percent certain” he spoke to Robert F. McDonnell before giving Maureen McDonnell $50,000 in May 2011.

Later, Williams said the first lady told the executive that she would forward the names of university scientists who were dragging their feet in accomplishing research to her husband, so he could intervene. Dry then showed Williams an e-mail chain in which Maureen McDonnell did, indeed, forward university names provided by Williams’s son to her husband’s e-mail account.

“So, that corroborates that testimony?” he asked. Williams said it did. “Was this e-mail in existence before you were ever interviewed by law enforcement?” Yes, Williams agreed.

He agreed the same about copies of the checks he’d written to Maureen McDonnell and the governor’s real estate company and notes he took during a one-on-one meeting with the governor to discuss the second loan in February 2012.

“Who is asking you for the money? Is it Mrs. McDonnell or is it Mr. McDonnell?” Dry asked.

“The governor,” Williams replied.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Jonnie R. Williams Sr. vigorously denied last week exchanging a series of late-night text message with Maureen McDonnell, even though phone records showed they had shared eight of them between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. one night in May 2011.

A deeper exploration of the messages shows his assertion was not altogether unfair.

Questioning Williams Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry walked his star witness slowly through the phone records that detail the late-night exchange. Maureen McDonnell, the records show, sent Williams four texts between 1:02 a.m. and 1:11 a.m. Williams did not respond until about 4 a.m., the records show. Maureen McDonnell then wrote Williams again at 6:44 a.m. and 7:06 a.m., and Williams responded at 7:27 a.m., the records show.

The records hardly undercut defense attorneys’ suggestion that Maureen McDonnell harbored inappropriate, even romantic, interest in Williams; after all, she texted him several times after 1 a.m. But they do show that she and Williams were not texting throughout the night.

Dry also took aim at the idea that the totality of Williams’s phone calls and texts with Maureen McDonnell — the two exchanged about 1,200 calls and messages between April 2011 and February 2013 — was out of the ordinary, at least for an on-the-go businessman such as Williams. In the same time period, Dry told Williams his phone records showed a total of 109,000 messages and calls.

“I’m a busy person,” Williams said.

  • Laura Vozzella
  • ·
A U-Va. golf bag that was given to Bobby McDonnell by Jonnie R. Williams Sr. (Trial exhibits)

A golf bag that was given to Bobby McDonnell by Jonnie R. Williams Sr. (Trial exhibits)

Prosecutor Michael Dry asked Jonnie R. Williams Sr. if the McDonnells ever told him to stop lavishing them with gifts.

Continuing to question the Star executive on re-direct examination, Dry asked if Maureen McDonnell had ever said the $6,000 to $7,000 Rolex watch he’d bought at her for the governor direction was too expensive.

“Did she ever say, ‘That’s too much’?” Dry asked.

“No,” Williams said.

“A lot of the requests I declined,” Williams said.

“Did Mr. McDonnell ever call and say, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be buying thing for my family’?” Dry asked. “‘You shouldn’t send a $1,000 set of golf clubs to Bobby’?”

“No,” Williams said.

And if the McDonnells had told him, “This isn’t right,” and asked him to stop, would he have done so, Dry asked. Williams he would have because that would have meant “nothing was going to come out of that.”

Dry also used his redirect examination to make the point that many of the things he’d provided to the McDonnells arrived after Maureen McDonnell’s chief of staff had quit. Defense attorneys have tried to suggest that the chief of staff, Mary-Shea Sutherland, had been had been behind some of the efforts to promote Williams’s dietary supplement in order to land a job with him.

“Mary-Shea Sutherland was not employed at the mansion when you gave another $50,000?” Dry asked. “Was she employed at the mansion when the governor asked for another $20,000?”

The answer in both cases was no.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry launched a vigorous attack Monday on the notion that Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and Maureen McDonnell had any sort of secret, romantic connection — flashing pictures of the first lady and her husband whispering or holding hands as Williams flatly denied any sort of tryst with the governor’s wife.

Jurors had already seen the pictures — one showing Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell holding hands onstage at a charity event, the other showing the governor whispering in his wife’s ear at a health-care reception — but they were more powerful in the context of Williams’s testimony. Asked flatly by Dry if he ever had “any physical or intimate relationship with Mrs. McDonnell,” Williams said: “I didn’t know Mrs. McDonnell had any interest in me ’till last week,” when defense attorneys unveiled the alleged romantic connection would be part of her defense.

A judge told Williams to answer the question more directly, and he did.

“I never had any contact with Mrs. McDonnell, any physical contact,” he testified.

Dry pressed further, and the businessman said Maureen McDonnell had never even spoke to him of any romantic interest, nor had he spoke to her about the subject. To drive home the point, Dry asked about Williams’s attendance at the McDonnells’ anniversary party, and of the few items — a Ferrari to use on a vacation and a Rolex to keep — that Maureen McDonnell is accused of soliciting for her husband.

“Who does she want that car available for?” Dry asked.

“Her husband,” Williams responded.

“When Mrs. McDonnell asked you to buy the Rolex, who was the Rolex going to?” he continued.

“Her husband,” Williams responded.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·
Jonnie Williams, Maureen McDonnell, Mary Shea Sutherland

Jonnie R. Williams Sr., right, testified Mary-Shea Sutherland, center, told him she was tired of working for first lady Maureen McDonnell, left. (Michaele White/Office of the Governor of Virginia via AP)

Now prosecutor Michael Dry is working to poke holes in innuendo from the defense on Friday that Maureen McDonnell’s chief of staff Mary-Shea Sutherland might have orchestrated the launch of Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s product at the governor’s mansion or other efforts to assist Williams’s company Star Scientific.

He noted that a log the defense had displayed shows Williams as visiting Sutherland on the day he held meetings at the Executive Mansion with a Virginia Commonwealth University scientist and a state health official to discuss Star in August 2011. But under Dry’s questioning, Williams said he met with those people alone with Maureen McDonnell in her mansion office, regardless of what the log indicated.

Dry also asked about an e-mail sent to Williams by a New York party planner that said he and Sutherland had spent a dinner brainstorming ideas for the product launch. The defense had used the e-mail to suggest launching Anatabloc at the mansion might have been Sutherland’s idea. But Williams said he never discussed a mansion launch with the party planner or with Sutherland. He said he figured Star would launch the product at a hotel, as they had with a previous product in February 2011. He said the first time the idea of a mansion event launch came up was when Maureen McDonnell stood up and offered it during a Star event in Florida in June 2011.

What about job negotiations with Sutherland? The defense had suggested that the first lady’s chief of staff might have been discussing going to work for Williams while she was still employed for the state, suggesting she was working to curry favor with Williams.

“In those discussion, did you make it clear to you that she was leaving government employment?” Dry asked Williams. “No matter what,” he said.

“She said she was tired of the way she was treated and it was embarrassing the way that Mrs. McDonnell hits everyone up for everything,” he said.

He said he respected Sutherland and found her professional and wanted to hire her, but decided he could not risk “fouling up” the relationship with the McDonnells. “Maybe the McDonnells would be upset about that,” Williams said.

“Did Mary-Shea Sutherland ever ask you for cash or loans?” Dry asked. “No,” Williams replied.

“Did she ever ask you to buy a Rolex?” “No,” Williams said again.

In turn, Williams agreed Sutherland had never asked to drive his Ferrari, never asked him to send her on vacation, never asked him to buy cars for her family members. He said the $1,600 dress he bought her during a New York shopping trip when he spent $20,000 on the first lady was his idea, and it came up after a long awkward day. “I said, Mary-Shea, you should just go ahead and try a dress on.”

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell is seen wearing the Rolex watch given to him by businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The watch is engraved with the words "Robert F. McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia." (Trial evidence)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell is seen wearing the Rolex watch given to him by businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The watch is engraved with the words “Robert F. McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia.” (Trial evidence)

Jonnie R. Williams Sr. testified earlier Monday that he was “scared” when he received from Robert F. McDonnell a picture of the governor grinning and holding up the Rolex watch that Williams had bought a year earlier.

At the questioning of Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry, Williams clarified why.

“This shows up on the nightly news, I have a problem,” Williams testified. “I should not have purchased it.”

The picture is shaping up to be a critical piece of evidence in the corruption case against the McDonnells, in no small part because the governor has asserted publicly that he believed the timepiece to be a Christmas gift from his wife. Although Williams testified Maureen McDonnell requested he buy the watch for her to give as a Christmas present for her husband in 2011, he said realized in December 2012 the governor knew its true origins — because of the picture.

Defense attorneys have questioned the picture’s origins, noting that a corresponding text message does not show up on Williams’s phone records. And unlike a picture that it was sent in response to, it does not seem to have data about when and from whom it was sent.

Dry noted, though, that the picture that the Rolex photo was sent in response to also does not appear on Williams’s phone records — a technical quirk, he claimed in questioning Williams, of the fact that the businessman uses an iPhone.

“Do you know that iPhone messages often don’t show up in your phone records?” Dry asked his star witness.

Williams said he did not.

It seems likely that Dry will call a phone specialist later in the trial to testify about why that is. And if he does, the dispute might come down to whether jurors believe Williams or the governor himself about who sent the Rolex photo.

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·
Maureen McDonnell sent this e-mail to businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. the day an earthquake rattled Richmond in 2011. (U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern District of Virginia)

Maureen McDonnell sent this e-mail to businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. the day an earthquake rattled Richmond in 2011. (U.S. Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of Virginia)

One of the more eye-popping moments of a wild trial came when defense attorneys revealed a text first lady Maureen McDonnell sent to businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. following an earthquake in Virginia.

“I just felt the EARTH MOVE AND I WASN’T HAVING SEX!!!!” the text read.

Phone records show Maureen McDonnell and Williams exchanged some 1,200 texts, including some in the wee hours of the morning. Maureen McDonnell’s attorney said during opening arguments that she had a “crush” on Williams and the relationship is a central part of their defense, but Williams has denied they had any kind of romantic tryst.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Robert F. McDonnell attorney Henry Asbill had a good line when he asked Jonnie R. Williams Sr. about a comment from his earlier testimony that the first rule of business is to stay in business.

“Would you say the second rule of business is: stay out of jail?” he asked.

“I don’t think any businessman wants to go to jail,” Williams replied.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

The defense is done cross-examining star prosecution witness Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

Robert F. McDonnell’s attorney, Henry Asbill, has just concluded his questioning. As a conclusion, he asked Williams: Did Star ever get any state contracts?

No, Williams acknowledged, it had not.

Did it get any money from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a group whose members are entirely appointed by the governor and has millions to give out to state businesses?

“I don’t think I ever asked for it,” Williams replied.

No visits by the governor or photo ops at Star’s headquarters? “At the headquarters itself? No,” Williams said,.

No board appointments? Nope, Williams agreed.

Asbill concluded: You’re mistake, you said, was that you misjudged the integrity of Bob McDonnell.

“Objection!” shouted prosecutor Michael Dry. “Sustained,” said Judge James R. Spencer.

“And his mistake was that he misjudged yours,” Asbill concluded, in a voice that could barely be heard over Dry yelling “objection” again and Spencer shouting Asbill down.

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