Bob McDonnell says he knows in his heart he's innocent
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told jurors Friday he was both innocent and contrite as he ended his third straight day of testifying in his corruption trial.
Asked point blank by defense attorney Henry Asbill whether he ever committed the crimes he's been charged with, McDonnell said he had not.
"I know that in my heart," McDonnell said.
But he also said he holds himself accountable for the decisions that landed him court. McDonnell and his supporters have long said that he may have used bad judgment but did not break any laws.
"I got my life out of balance," McDonnell said.
McDonnell testified Friday about loans and gifts he received from Jonnie Williams, then CEO of Star Scientific Inc. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts, trips and loans from Williams exchange for promoting his company's products, particularly the tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory Anatabloc.
When the fifth week of trial begins Monday, McDonnell will be questioned by one of his wife's lawyers before prosecutors cross-examine the former governor.
McDonnell testified that he does not blame his wife for his legal troubles. However, the defense has attempted to isolate the former governor from the dealings between Maureen McDonnell, who was not legally a public official, and Williams.
On Thursday, McDonnell shared details about his marriage reminiscent of a soap opera. The ex-governor testified that he began working late to avoid going home and facing Maureen McDonnell's rage. The defense introduced a letter in which McDonnell told his wife he was "at a loss as to how to handle the fiery anger and hate from you that has become more and more apparent." The full text of the letter is included below.
The former governor said he was unaware of many of the flashier gifts Williams had given to his wife.
On Friday, McDonnell testified about the gifts and loans he was aware of, saying there was nothing inappropriate accepting them from a man who had asked only routine political courtesies and a call to his father on his 80th birthday.
However, the governor said he erred in not reporting two golf outings paid for by Williams and a golf bag emblazoned with the University of Notre Dame logo. The governor, who graduated from Notre Dame, was required to file a yearly disclosure with state government of his income, debts and gifts.
"Those probably should have been reported," McDonnell said. "I take responsibility for that."
The former governor said the omissions were not intentional and that he was not trying to keep Williams' gifts hidden from the public. McDonnell did disclose another gift from Williams on those forms: the use of a vacation lake house.
McDonnell said he gave Williams no special treatment in exchange for the gifts and loans, only typical constituent service. For example, McDonnell said there was nothing unusual about a July 31, 2011, email request for Secretary of Health and Human Services Bill Hazel to send an aide to meet with Williams and Maureen McDonnell at the Executive Mansion the next day.
"This kind of email I would have sent many, many times," McDonnell said.
The request came the same day McDonnell drove Williams' Ferrari back to Richmond after vacationing at the businessman's Smith Mountain Lake house.
McDonnell also testified about the night in February 2013 when he learned state police were asking about the couple's relationship with Williams. He said police had interviewed his wife about the chef at the governor's mansion for an investigation into missing food at the residence. McDonnell said he was "darn angry" to learn from his wife that they asked about stock she owned in Williams' company, loans from Williams and the governor's financial disclosure statement.
"She was very nervous," McDonnell said. "She was very anxious when I talked to her that night."
Williams, testifying under immunity, said earlier that he was not friends with the McDonnells and that he spent lavishly on them and their children solely to buy their influence as he sought state-backed research for Anatabloc.
The former governor disputed much of Williams' testimony. McDonnell denied telling Williams that he owned Star Scientific stock. Williams also said that after a meeting about a possible stock loan, McDonnell had told him a handshake deal is not legally binding in Virginia. McDonnell denied saying that.
McDonnell also denied agreeing with Williams to keep a $50,000 loan between the two of them
McDonnell said he had "misjudged" Williams, whom he had once considered a "true friend."
"I had no idea he would come into federal court and make false statements about me," McDonnell said.
E-MAIL FROM BOB MCDONNELL TO MAUREEN:
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 samll 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
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry