The star witness in a federal corruption case against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife Maureen had “showered” the former lady with attention at a time when the couple’s marriage was faltering, her attorney said in court Tuesday.
Defense attorney William Burck suggested in his opening statement that Maureen McDonnell had romantic feelings for former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams (both pictured), according to The Washington Post. He later suggested the former first lady had been duped by Williams.
Burck pledged that a staffer would be able to testify that McDonnell considered Williams her “favorite playmate.” He added that the two exchanged 1,200 phone calls and text messages during the period covered by McDonnell’s indictment on corruption charges for the gifts she received from Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplement company.
“Maureen immediately gravitated toward Jonnie,” the defense attorney told the court, as quoted by the Post. “He showered her with attention she craved.”
McDonnell’s marriage to the former governor had “broken down” during the period of the gifts scandal, Burck said.
The former first lady played a prominent role in the alleged gifts conspiracy. Prosecutors say Williams had agreed to pay for a designer dress for McDonnell to wear to her husband’s gubernatorial inauguration at her request, until she told him she’d take a “rain check” on the gown. She’d also allegedly asked Williams for a $50,000 loan in addition to $15,000 to pay off catering costs for her daughter’s wedding during a private meeting at the Executive Mansion.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.