Jonnie R. Williams, the key witness in a corruption trial of ex-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, has testified the former first lady sought gifts and loans in return for help with his business.
Prosecutors say Jonnie Williams gave Bob and Maureen McDonnell gifts and loans totaling $165,000 (£97,000).
Bob McDonnell denies wrongdoing. His wife says their marriage was frayed and she had a “crush” on Jonnie Williams.
On Thursday, Jonnie Williams said buying gifts for the couple was poor judgment.
Jonnie Williams, the head of a vitamin supplements company called Star Scientific, said buying a $6,000 Rolex watch on the request of Maureen McDonnell was “a bad decision on my part”.
“I shouldn’t have had to buy things like that to get the help I needed,” Jonnie Williams told jurors as they inspected the watch in question.
He also denied being friends with the McDonnells.
Prosecutors say Bob McDonnell was in financial need and traded on his position to win gifts of travel and cash from Jonnie Williams, for whom he arranged meetings with state officials.
However, Bob McDonnell argues he was only doing for Jonnie Williams what he would for any Virginia businessman.
On Wednesday, Jonnie Williams testified Maureen McDonnell asked him for money and to pay for high-end shopping trips, offering to connect him to the governor in return.
Jonnie Williams, to whom prosecutors have granted immunity, said he insisted on speaking to the governor before giving her any cash, and testified that the governor subsequently thanked him for his generosity.
As his testimony resumed on Thursday, the chief executive said he refused some of Maureen McDonnell’s requests because he believed they would be too visible – including vehicles for two of Bob McDonnell’s children and purchasing the couple’s money-losing rental properties.
Jonnie Williams also said he decided against a secret stock transfer to Bob McDonnell because he could not have hid the transaction from US regulators.
Bob McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party with aspirations for national office, left office in disgrace in January at the end of his term. Virginia governors are barred from running for a second consecutive term, and he was succeeded by Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
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