July 29, 2014
The jury heard opening statements Tuesday morning in the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.
Statements from both Bob and Maureen McDonnell’s lawyers indicate a rocky relationship between the couple.
Prosecutors say the couple conspired together to sell their power and influence to the highest bidder, but the defense painted a different picture.
Maureen's attorney, William A. Burck, said she is collateral damage in the investigation. Burck told the court that Maureen's marriage to Bob was crumbling, that they were barely on speaking terms while living in the Governor's Mansion.
According to the defense, Jonnie Williams, the CEO of Star Scientific who gave the couple more than $150,000 in gifts and loans, was in the middle of a love triangle and not a business transaction.
Burck argued that Maureen was lonely and uncomfortable in the spotlight, and had developed a crush on Williams. The defense says she hid many of William's gifts - designer dresses and purses - from the governor.
The defense attorney says Maureen McDonnell was duped by the businessman, and "unlike the other man in her life, Jonnie Williams paid attention to her."
Bob McDonnell's attorney, John Brownlee, admits he worked harder at being governor than he did at being a husband. However, Brownlee agued, his work to promote William's company was no different than what he did for dozens of other Virginia companies.
Additional personal details came out when Brownlee said Maureen told Bob she hated her husband, resenting his long absences, and wishing the family had more money.
One of the first witnesses called to testify was Cailin McDonnell Young, the governor’s daughter whose wedding catering bill was the tip off the ice burg in this investigation.
Cailin broke down in tears in the courtroom, telling prosecutors the night she met Jonnie Williams, he offered to foot the $15,000 bill for catering her wedding. Cailin testified if she knew what she knows now, she would never have accepted the offer.
She also backed up the defense’s claims that Bob McDonnell was largely absent from the family, saying she barely saw her father during his time as attorney general or governor.
The image of a crumbling marriage is key to both Bob and Maureen's defense.
Prosecutors argue the couple conspired together to accept $150,000 in gift and loans in exchange for promoting Star Scientific products.
Defense attorneys argue Williams used Maureen's vulnerability to gain access to a business-friendly governor who had no idea what was going on.
This trail just getting started, and both Bob McDonnell and Jonnie Williams are expected to testify.