RICHMOND – The prosecution began winding down its case against Bob and Maureen McDonnell Wednesday, laying phone calls, texts, meetings, checks and emails into a timeline for the jury.
While Jonnie R. Williams Sr. was at the mansion, delivering two five-figure checks to Maureen McDonnell, the governor’s schedule shows “private work time,” according to FBI Special Agent David Hulser. Hulser collated a slew of records in this case and spent Wednesday afternoon connecting dots for federal prosecutors trying to tie Williams not just to Maureen McDonnell, but also to her husband.
A few days later, Maureen McDonnell deposited one of the checks, a $50,000 loan in her name. Within a couple of weeks she paid down balances on credit cards held in the governor’s name and bought more than $31,000 worth of stock in Star Scientific, Williams’ company.
Bob McDonnell’s attorneys have suggested, as they questioned witnesses in this case, that the governor may not have known about Maureen McDonnell’s stock moves. They were apparently timed to avoid disclosure on the governor’s required year-end financial reports.
Hulser’s records show that Maureen McDonnell was on the phone with her husband right before she spoke with the couple’s stock broker in December 2011.
Then she called Williams, the records show. Then her husband again. Then the stock broker again. The next day he executed a trade, divesting Maureen McDonnell of her Star Scientific stock.
The prosecution is expected to rest its case Thursday, and the McDonnell defense will likely present its own version of events starting Monday. The couple’s attorneys haven’t had a chance yet to cross examine Hulser, who told the jury that investigators from the FBI, IRS and Virginia State Police conducted more than 300 interviews and hauled in 3.5 million pages worth of documents for this case.
They found that the McDonnells had about $74,900 in credit card debt, split over seven cards, when Bob McDonnell took office in January 2010. That was the month after Maureen McDonnell complained to incoming administration staffers about the couple's financial situation and worried about how she'd outfit herself for inauguration events.
Williams offered to buy her a gown, but McDonnell staffers shut that down, according to testimony earlier in this trial.
The McDonnells' credit card debt peaked in September 2010 at nearly $91,000, Hulser testified. They paid it down to about $31,000 by April 2011, when Williams took Maureen McDonnell on a $20,000 shopping spree in New York City.
Hulser also went through phone records, telling the jury that Bob and Maureen McDonnell shared 308 cellphone calls of more than a minute between April 11, 2011, and Feb. 15, 2013.
The dates are significant. April 11 is the first record of cellphone contact between Maureen McDonnell and Williams, Hulser said. Feb. 15 is the day State Police first asked Maureen McDonnell about Williams and Star Scientific.
During the same period, records show 167 calls lasting more than a minute between Maureen McDonnell and Williams. Records show a number of texts and calls between the two when the McDonnells are believed to have been together.
That includes a flight the couple shared, during a weekend family getaway at Williams’ Smith Mountain Lake vacation home and their Ferrari ride home, when Bob McDonnell drove Williams’ car. She had a 14 minute phone call with Williams during the car ride, according to evidence summaries Hulser presented.
The defense maintains that the McDonnell marriage crumbled while the governor was in office. They say the two rarely spoke, making a conspiracy to accept Williams’ gifts in exchange for helping Star Scientific, as the prosecution alleges, impossible.
Visitor logs from the governor’s mansion show Williams visiting Maureen McDonnell on May 2, 2011. While he was there, Maureen McDonnell called the governor, his sister and his sister’s husband, Hulser said.
McDonnell and his sister, who is also named Maureen, own beach property together through a company called MoBo Real Estate. The company was losing more than $40,000 a year at this point, Hulser’s records show, and Williams has testified that he was asked to buy at least one of the homes.
That night, the governor’s wife and Williams had a 48 minute telephone call, Hulser said. Fifteen minutes later the governor called his sister, and the call lasted an hour and 24 minutes, Hulser said.
In addition to Hulser’s testimony, prosecutors spent Wednesday tying up loose ends in their case, and focusing on charges connected to loan applications the McDonnells signed. Most of the 14 counts against the couple allege corruption – that they took more than $150,000 from Williams and helped his company’s ultimately unsuccessful push for grant funding and state research work.
But two charges deal with loan documents – one the governor signed with his sister and another he and his wife submitted in 2012. Both were efforts to refinance the beach houses in Virginia Beach, though other properties, including a mountain vacation home and the McDonnell’s personal residence in Glenn Allen, also were involved.
Neither application included the loans Williams had given the couple until after the McDonnells found out police were looking into their relationship with Williams, and the governor edited one of them. Failing to disclose debts to lenders is a potential federal crime.
Three days after police first interviewed Maureen McDonnell, the governor added previously undisclosed loans via handwritten edits, documents show. His attorneys pointed out that he added other things, too, including retirement account income and a car, neither of which had been listed as assets on the application before.
They also noted that the loan, from Pentagon Federal Credit Union, hadn’t closed at this point. It didn’t for several more months.
A separate loan from TowneBank did close without the governor revealing debt to Williams or Starwood Trust, the account Williams used for some of his dealings with the McDonnells. The governor’s attorneys argued that he didn’t have to disclose the debts on this loan, because Williams’ first loan was to the governor’s wife, who didn’t appear on loan paperwork.
The other loan at issue went to MoBo Real Estate, not the governor directly. McDonnell attorney John Brownlee suggested Wednesday that it didn’t have to be disclosed, either, since the TowneBank loan was to the governor and his sister, not their jointly owned LLC.
Fain can be reached by phone at 757-525-1759757-525-1759.