WINTER WEATHER UPDATE: Messy conditions to impact Thanksgiving travel

WEEK 4: McDonnell denies he hid gifts; love letter exposes rift between couple

McDonnell leaving federal courthouse

RICHMOND, Va. — The federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, begins its fourth week at the Federal Courthouse in Richmond. The government has rested its case, and the defense will begin now.

Scroll down for updates from the proceedings from CBS 6 political reporter Joe St. George. [Click to follow Joe on Twitter] [Click for week one updates][Click for week two updates][Click for week three updates]

Nick Dutton August 24, 201410:18 pm

We’ve started a new post for the fifth week on the trial. Follow Joe St. George’s updates here.

Joe St. George August 22, 20149:22 pm

Day 20: Bob McDonnell’s Attorneys Finish direct questioning

Bob McDonnell is done taking questions by his own attorneys — for now. They will again have a chance during redirect.

Monday, Mrs. McDonnell’s lawyers will have a chance to ask the former governor questions and then Michael Dry — the prosecutor for the government — will begin his cross examination.

McDonnell finished his testimony Friday by saying the while he “misjudged” Jonnie Williams’ motives, he did absolutely nothing illegal.

“I don’t blame my wife,” McDonnell said on the stand.

The final question Atty. Hank Asbill asked him “What was the most important gift you got?” “Time with my family,” McDonnell responded.

Earlier in the day, when asked why he went on a Jonnie Williams Cape Cod trip McDonnell said “I don’t see fancy hotels or boats but time away.”

McDonnell ultimately took responsibility for being charged as he looked jurors in their eyes reiterating his innocence.

Throughout the day McDonnell said he didn’t lie on bank forms — but simply left off debts that his MoBo company had — believing corporate liabilities did not need to be listed on personal bank or disclosure statements.

McDonnell did admit that he left some items off his disclosure forms but that he did not do so maliciously.

McDonnell answered several questions from his lawyer about anything Williams may have got. McDonnell said Williams asked him for very little and that anything he might have received was standard.

McDonnell said how “darn angry” he was when investigators first interviewed his wife about this case. He said they both believed it was on the subject of the mansion chef. He described their tactics as an “ambush.”

In regards to accusations he lied on a PenFed bank form, McDonnell said the process was still in its early stages and that not only did he make some mistakes but that the bank did too. He said he did not believe the first form he filled out for the bank was the FINAL form.

Thanks for following my updates here this week. Please tweet me any questions and please watch my 6pm report from Friday below!

See you Monday for Day 21.

JSG

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Day 19: Bob on Marriage, Gifts

We saw a different Bob McDonnell on the witness stand early Thursday than we saw late Wednesday.

His voice was softer. He looked at the jury less. He admitted the subject was “difficult.”

If you are reading the blog, chances are you know the subject of his marriage was intimately discussed.

McDonnell told jurors he moved out of the house a week before the trial and is currently living at the rectory at St. Patricks Church in Richmond, VA.

McDonnell detailed how his marriage to Maureen McDonnell went from bad to worse during his year’s in office.

McDonnell testified his marriage began to have issues in the mid 1990s when his public career was on the rise — issues were present to such an degree that they carried over to a Disney World vacation.

Going into the Governor’s office, McDonnell said he knew his wife had “tension” and was “not happy with the result.”

Things however worsened McDonnell said when his youngest children left for college and when Maureen’s parents suddenly died.

“I felt like an orphan,” Maureen told Bob.

McDonnell admitted his wife began to have “uncontrollable anger” and that when the issue of counseling was brought up he said she was not supportive of the idea.

McDonnell told jurors he believed his marriage might be over in September of 2011. McDonnell said he canceled Labor Day events to spend the weekend with his wife. Bob McDonnell said the First Lady did not share his desire.

As a result he penned this letter which was entered into evidence Thursday. It has been made available through Richmond Times Dispatch.
From: Bob McDonnell

Sent: Mon 9/05/2011 12:54 PM (GMT -4)

To: Maureen Mcdonnell

Subject: [No Subject]

I love you. Yesterday was one on the lowest points in my life. We have had very hard year emotionally, despite a wonderful anniversary celebration. You are my soulmate. I love being married to you and having a family. We have shared much good life together. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life which I wish I could fix. I am so sorry for all the times I have not been there for you and have done things to hurt you. I know I am a sinner and keep trying to do better. But I am completely at a loss as to how to handle the fiery anger and hate from you that has become more and more frequent. You told me again yesterday that you would wreck my things and how bad I am. It hurt me to my core. I have asked and prayed to God so many times to take this anger away from you and heal whatever hurt is causing it….some going back years and years. He has not yet answered those prayers. I often lie awake at night thinking what I can do to try to make things better. I admit that I do keep away from you sometimes and don’t talk to you about important things or problems to avoid confrontation. My whole life is spent trying to help my family and other people. Overall I am incredibly blessed to lead the life we have lead, and you are too. More great children, good jobs, material comforts and friends than most people ever have. I fight to continue to be humble and thankful for All God has done. l was very excited about this weekend to spend 3 days with you to do what we wanted. We started tough friday night but we agreed to a reset. I wanted yesterday to show we could work together. I planned to open gifts, walk to the river with you, talk to you(like you did when you bared your sweet soul a little about your childhood on the Aspen trip this summer) read, watch a movie and catch up on personal business. Somehow the best plans with us never work out. It makes me very sad. I am lonely sometimes. I want to be in love, not just watch movies about it. You are doing a really great job as First Lady…better than any I’ve seen and better than you probably expected as you were nervous taking the FLOVA job. l’m so proud of your public actions. Our private life though has great heartache. You tell me all the time how bad your life has been with me and how unhappy you are. l do not understand this. I am so spiritually and mentally exhausted from being yelled at. I don’t think you realize how you are affecting me and sometimes others with your tongue. As you told me many times and bought the book, “don’t sweat the small stuff’. And everything is small stuff(Gary Smalley). I beg of you to think about conflict resolution in a peaceful manner. Ironically that was the focus of the readings at Church and Fr Jims homily yesterday. There is no problem we can’t work out if we are calm and talk nicely and respect each others position. I am NOT preaching! l love you and want to help make you happy and our family endure. I will do anything possible to try to fix our marriage if you will work with me. Today I will spend on the many tasks I need to do:working on Dads estate(sad), paying bills, 2010 taxes,student loans, getting our files in order, letters to kids, sandbridge properties, etc. And taking at least a little time to read something for my soul! l know you work hard too to run a good office. Let me know if you want to talk softly. Bob

McDonnell testified that he later discovered the same day he sent this letter —- Maureen McDonnell called Jonnie Williams four times.

After lunch, topic of gifts took center stage.

McDonnell said he was unaware of the high level of contact between Jonnie Williams and his wife and believed Maureen bought the clothes in NYC and not Williams. He testified he know knows the truth.

McDonnell said that when it came to golf clubs and bags — he thought the gifts were “a little much” but left it up to the kids whether they should keep them. Bob McDonnell said he kept his.

In regards to the Ferrari ride, McDonnell never said it was a bad idea on the stand. He called it “fun” and his attempt to be “normal.”

The Rolex watch he received on Christmas morning he told jurors he thought was fake because it came in a Moldova Box and not a Rolex one.

Testimony will continue Friday — it remains unclear when prosecutor Michael Dry will begin his cross examination.

Below is my 6pm report and tweets from the day.

JSG

Nick Dutton August 21, 20146:06 pm

Joe St. George asks Bob McDonnell about minister as former governor leaves after testifying in his federal corruption trial Thursday.

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>When this photo was shown of Bob touring SW tornado damage. He paused for a while. Visible emotion. <a href=”http://t.co/jEitijCdAW”>pic.twitter.com/jEitijCdAW</a></p>&mdash; Joe St. George (@JoeStGeorge) <a href=”https://twitter.com/JoeStGeorge/statuses/502498655228932097″>August 21, 2014</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

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Joe St. George August 20, 20148:45 pm

Day 18: Bob Takes the Stand

It was a moment we were expecting — but we journalists were seemingly caught off guard when Bob McDonnell was called to testify Wednesday.
After two of his closet friends took the stand to discuss his character (a Catholic priest and a successful business man no less) Attorney Hank Asbill dramatically stood up, paused, took a sip of water, and said “The defense calls Bob McDonnell.”

Journalists (including me) then ran out of the courtroom to alert editors, newsrooms, and those following on twitter.
Bob McDonnell so far has given little in defense of his indictment. He did say Jonnie Williams got a little more than the usual amount of treatment top donors receive but reiterated Jonnie Williams received no state grants. 

McDonnell appeared comfortable on the stand – looking in the eyes of the jury on more than one occasion. It was if Bob McDonnell would look at his lawyer for the question and then fixate his eyes on the 12 jurors during his answer.
Most of McDonnell’s testimony was about his life story – how he struggled in his early years. He testified how his mother would send $100 from time to time because she knew the burdens he was facing.
McDonnell testified to how the years in the Army shaped his character and why public service was his “calling.”
McDonnell also seemed to emphazize how large amounts of money is a part of politics at high levels. He discussed how gifts are unlimited in Virginia as well as the tens of millions he raised in order to succeed.
While more of Bob McDonnell’s marriage will be on display Thursday, McDonnell did testify to the “tension” he felt the day after he won from his wife. He described how it appeared to him she was “not happy with the result.”
Below are my video recaps from the 5:30 and 7:00 shows respectively. Stay tuned tomorrow — lots of news to come.
JSG

Nick Dutton August 20, 20148:29 pm

Here’s Joe St. George’s report on Wednesday’s proceedings.

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CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone weighs in on Bob McDonnell’s testimony. 

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Day 17 Summary

Maureen McDonnell took the stand Tuesday.

No — not Former First Lady Maureen McDonnell, but Bob McDonnell’s sister Maureen.

While Bob McDonnell’s youngest sister described her brother as her “best friend” she also had harsh words for her sister in law.

Maureen McDonnell described the former First Lady as a “vitamin nut” who had a “passion to the point of irritation” when it came to the supplements. She also said Maureen McDonnell was “manipulative” and would often “hide things from Bob.

Maureen McDonnell described her brother’s wife as a person who felt “trapped” in the governor’s mansion – describing the place as a “prison mansion.”

Maureen is also a crucial witness when it comes to finances. She is the Mo in Mobo—the reality company half-owned by Bob McDonnell.

Maureen McDonnell testified that she never lost any sleep over the MoBo properties because she made over $500,000 a year with other assets totaling over a million dollars.

Maureen McDonnell testified the only reason she allowed Jonnie Williams to provide loans to MoBo was because it was a cheaper alternative that would not impact her credit score. She described paying back Jonnie Williams after the story broke as “quite easy.”

During cross examination, prosecutor Jessica Aber attempted to shake Maureen by grilling her over emails she wrote describing real estate options as being “brutal.”

She also tried to highlight financial problems with the family – problems that prevented them from being able to refinance at one point.
Also testifying Tuesday, Kathleen Scott. Scott said Maureen was often “gaga” over Jonnie Williams and that he “made her feel special.” Scott also said a VCU Management Consultant was hired to try and prove morale at the mansion among the staff. That consultant – Jim Burke – reportedly told staffers to treat Maureen like a five year old.
Wrapping up Tuesday was Allen Kosowsky. Kosowsky — who has been paid $80,000 dollars so far to analyze the McDonnell finances testified to how financially strong the former first couple was during their years in the governor’s mansion.
This testimony initiated by the defense is an attempt to undermine any potential motive the government established when they presented their case.
Kosowsky said the McDonnells had over $172,000 dollars in unused credit during 2011 and that they had over $60K in their bank accounts the month Jonnie Williams gave them a 50,000 dollar MoBo loan.
Kosowsky will continue his testimony Wednesday at 9:45 a.m.
Watch my video below for a complete wrap of the day — including why Maureen McDonnell (the wife) is tolerating all this name calling in court.

Nick Dutton August 19, 20147:12 pm

Here’s Joe St. George’s report from CBS 6 News at 6 p.m.

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Here is my story from weeks ago regarding this witness: http://wtvr.com/2014/07/15/mcdonnells-hope-accountant-can-testify-there-was-no-financial-hardship/

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Day 16 Summary:

The defense is now in control of this trial.

After the government rested its case last week, Monday kicked off the McDonnell’s phase.

Remember, there are two defenses in this case. We learned Monday Bob McDonnell’s legal team is starting. After they rest, then Mrs. McDonnell’s legal team will get a chance to call their witnesses.

The first person called was Brenda Chamberlain who was the bookkeeper for the McDonnell’s MoBo Reality Company.

She testified to the extent in which Bob McDonnell was not involved in the day to day operations—saying she primarily dealt with his brother-in-law Michael Uncapher.

Chamberlain testified Uncapher’s financial management was “sporadic.”

During cross however, the government got Chamberlain to admit she didn’t know the specifics about the Jonnie Williams loans until after Mrs. McDonnell was interviewed by investigators on February 15, 2012.

No doubt the “star witness” on Monday was former cabinet secretary Janet Kelly.

Kelly testified that Mrs. McDonnell was “diva-ish” saying she had “challenging behavior.” In fact she said at one point it was so bad nearly all of the staff at the governor’s mansion threatened to quit. Those staffers wrote a letter describing Mrs. McDonnell’s behavior as “the worst kind of bullying.”

Kelly fought back tears when talking about Mrs. McDonnell because she did not want to “pile on.”

Kelly also appeared to have nothing but positive things to say about her former boss. Kelly called Bob McDonnell “gracious” and one of the “most honest men I know.”

“They are drawing a contrast between a governor who did the right thing for the state, the right thing for his staff and a First Lady who was out of control,” Dr. Bob Holsworth – a political analyst who sat in court for testimony – said.

“I was happy to come in and testify on behalf of the governor. He is a good man,” Kelly told reporters leaving court.

Also testifying Monday former McDonnell cabinet secretaries Ric Brown and Jim Cheng – who testified Bob McDonnell did not ask for any funding to be allocated to Jonnie Williams.

That theme was also carried out by Neal Noyes – former Executive Director of the Tobacco Commission – who testified Bob McDonnell never asked for tobacco commission grants to be given to Jonnie Williams.

However during cross examination, prosecutor Michael Dry did get Noyse to explain letters UVA wrote the tobacco commission regarding a possible grant application.

Also in court, another juror was excused. That means there is just one alternate juror remaining in a case that could still go on for weeks. 

The million dollar question now however is when will Bob McDonnell take the stand? He has told reporters he will but is giving no indication of when that will be.

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Reporter Jake Burns has your courthouse update from this afternoon.

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18 comments

  • Glen Allen

    It is more likely that the case is losing jurors because it is so DULL, none can stay awake! The only thing even remotely spicy is the fact that Maureen, a 60+ year old frumpy lady, has a crush on a dumpy 60+ year old man, the thought of which is frankly TMI

  • Holly Albrecht (@JellyBeanVA)

    Since I no longer live in Virginia I don’t have all the details, but it sure seems as if Maureen is being thrown under the bus to save Bob. What kind of a man/husband/leader(?) allows that to happen?? I guess that’s politics~ save your own bacon!

    • Glen Allen

      Men that love their wives and / or their children, do not throw their wives under the bus as Bob is clearly doing. The defense would have done much better to stand strictly on grounds that they do not believe the Governor broke any laws, they are making him look even worse by dragging his wife thru the mud.

      • Becky

        Can’t tell one way or the other in This Case. Don’t think the FACTS are relevant in this
        Case, This is Gossip Feeding Frenzy Fest, another Richmond heralded Street Festival,
        with hot dog carts, outside the somber, dignified, impeccable Federal Court.
        Today’s Partisan Featured Headlines calling the former First Lady a “Irritated, means,
        Nut Job”, covering again, “does thee love me/love me not” and who betrayed the marriage first. Happens all the time in Divorce Court.
        Off topic in Proving WHAT, exactly, did Johnny Williams GET from the Governor’s
        position, authority and power.
        Media solely and selectively covers, exactly what and how Media wants to Portray and Elicit.
        They have proven themselves PC Impeccable also.

  • Glen Allen

    Hahaha, this Janet Kelly sounds like a real dingbat. If Mrs. McDonnell was so horrible to people, why did the Governor allow it?

  • Robo

    This administration was so dysfunctional. Every week there is more and more dirt.
    Makes one wonder what would have happened if the charges had not been brought about, probably nothing business as usual.
    Virginia is working its way into one of the top 10 corrupt US States.

  • Becky

    - Media: “I write the songs that make the whole world sing”
    Media: deliberately hand selects, paint, twist, contort, and sensationalize to suit our desired
    outcome as partisan. “Diva”, “everyone wanted to resign”, Impeccable Johnny is a “Star”,
    “Loves thee, Loves thee not” , Hot Cars, Hot emails, Hot fashion, Hot Gossip. One minute
    McDonnell was blindly in love with his wife; the next he is throwing her under the bus.
    Media: staunchly Refuse to “investigate” any and all transparent, blatant,
    “Corruption” of Democratic Governor, with two Federal Investigations, and Democratic Mayor.
    – Media: “That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh We Like It, uh huh, uh huh.”

    • Becky

      Laura Fornash, who served as McDonnell’s education secretary, and Richard “Ric” Brown, who has served as finance secretary since August 2008, testified that Bob McDonnell never asked them to take action in their respective roles to benefit Star Scientific or Williams, or to do anything unethical.

  • Carolyn Rector

    I don’t know what to think! I thing the Mrs. Has a mental and emotional illness. Have tests done to see if this is the possible answer. He is likely depressed also.

  • mbaker9105

    All this is a sideshow by the defense. It’s strategy is to get the jury to think “oh, poor, lovelorn, dimwitted Bob just didn’t know what his evil wife was doing”. And, thus deflecting, no charges can probably be filed against the wife. The point is, Williams gave the money “loans” and gifts, etc., and what did he get in return? Access and ACTIONS on the part of the Governors office and State Agencies (trying to get the drug situation into VCU, added to the health system, etc.). THAT was not done my the evil wife, that was done by the Governor and his staff….the only thing that matters to the judge and jury are the counts in the indictment….wire fraud and conspiracy. Go read the indictment counts and look up the US Code references http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/mcdonnell.pdf

  • Becky

    Very strong Contrasts & Contradictions when Democratic party and party media are politically targeting an attacking opponents from when they are politically protecting and refusing to cover their own party members. Media applauds their efforts, with photo ops, to make “Stars” of themselves during this once in a lifetime staged, produced, and directed Theatrical Production,
    chumming for their schools of piranhas.
    WHAT are “ace investigational reporters/experts” saying as to WHAT, exactly, “Star” Johnny Williams GOT from the Governor’s position, power and authority? Guess that isn’t relevant when
    it comes to a Smut Political Campaign Agenda.

  • Becky

    Unprecedented in American Political History …marriage problems, moving out, staying with trusted friend and possible divorce. It’s positively “Corrupt”.
    (FDR, JFK, LBJ, Clintons before 1st term, during all terms, and Oval Office Cigar breaks with
    wife in residence. He just moved to another room of tax paid mansion, protect, always, by SS.)

    • Joey B

      It sounds like you may need to be taken care of by the taxpayer Becky. Don’t you have medication for whatever your problem is?

  • catsgeesonexaminer

    It is entirely possible that Maureen was a problem all through McDonnell’s time as Governor. It is just really sad. But I have to agree with Harry from Hunton. From the very first story to come out about Jonnie’s relationship with the governor, it was very obvious he was going to be getting protection from prosecution for his testimony. He is nothing more than a “snake-oil” salesman.

  • John Q Citizen

    I have noticed Catholic Priests escorting both Bob and Maureen into court everyday. They make a habit of making sure they appear in all the camera shots. I have a speeding ticket trial coming up next month. Anyone know how I can rent a Catholic priest to accompany me to court everyday, perhaps sit behind me, comfort me, show their support, and make uninformed comments to the press during my trial? I would be willing to donate to their parish, but need to know what is the price for each level of service. I wonder if they publish a menu with associated prices…

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