Jonnie Williams, said to be a master salesman, testified that he used the facetime he got on a cross-country flight with Gov. Robert McDonnell in October 2010 to promote his fledgling tobacco-based vitamins.
It was a highly personal sales pitch: Williams told the governor that his pills had cured his wife’s pre-cancerous thyroid condition.
Shuttling the governor from California to Richmond on his private jet, Willams used the six hours to lay out his scientific case for his dietary supplement, called Anatabloc.
Williams said that his wife, Celeste, had been diagnosed several years ago with a serious, pre-cancerous thyroid condition. He had already been researching why smokers, while putting themselves at risk for cancer and other ailments, are less likely to get some other health problems, including those involving the thyroid. And he thought he knew the answer: anatabine, a compound found in tobacco and the active ingredient in Anatabloc.
A Johns Hopkins surgeon said Celeste would have to have her thyroid removed.
“Can you give me 60 days so I can do something?” Williams asked the doctor.
Williams used that time to put Celeste on a regimen of “Tic-Tac” style antatabine pills, which would become the forerunner to Anatabloc.
When Celeste showed up for her surgery, Williams said he had the doctors make sure it was necessary.
“I insisted they do a sonogram to check and they came back and … the thoracic surgeon said, ‘Mrs. Williams is no longer a candidate for surgery,’” Williams told the jury.
After sharing that story, Williams said Gov. McDonnell made arrangements for him to meet with Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Hazel. The purpose: Williams wanted help getting state universities to do research into anatabine.
“I needed testing and I wanted to have this done in Virginia,” Williams said. He recalled that he asked the governor: “Would you connect me with the person in Virginia, in your administration, so I can move this forward?”