Jonnie Williams Testifies he Gave Gifts To McDonnells in Exchange for Help


Star Scientific CEO, Jonnie Williams, told the jury he needed the support of Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen to help his company. He testified Thursday morning about a product launch at the Executive Mansion in August of 2011, which the first couple attended. Prosecutor Michael Dry listed the shopping sprees, plane trips, $50,000 loan and $15,000 catering bill, and golf trips, asking Williams how many of those gifts were given to the McDonnells out of friendship.

"The McDonnells were not my personal friends," said Williams. Adding he thought the gifts and loans would help his business.

Williams also testified about a meeting he had with a Health and Human Services employee and a doctor from Virginia Commonwealth University at Maureen McDonnell's office at the Mansion the day after the first family spent a long weekend at Williams vacation home on Smith Mountain Lake. According to Williams, the meetings were set up by Maureen.

Williams told the jury it was after those meetings that Maureen noticed his Rolex watch. She said, "I'd really like to get one of those for the governor." Williams said he agreed, and purchased a Rolex at Malibu Jewelers in Malibu, CA for $6 or $7,000. He said engraving "Robert McDonnell 71st Governor of Virginia" on the watch was Maureen's idea.

Jurors had a chance to examine the watch, passing it around before Williams continued testifying. He said the watch was a mistake.

"I shouldn't have had to buy things like that to get the help I needed."

Williams will be back on the witness stand Thursday afternoon.

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