RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The corruption trial for ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife plunged Tuesday into the sordid details of the couple's marriage and the former first lady's "crush" on a businessman who, according to prosecutors, lavished them with gifts and cash in exchange for promoting his company.
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in loans, designer clothes, vacations and a Rolex watch from Jonnie Williams, the CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific. If convicted, they could face decades in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber said during opening statements that McDonnell and his wife betrayed the public's trust by lining their pockets with "secret gifts and cash." McDonnell, a once-rising star in the Republican party who left office in January, had a duty "not to sell the power and influence of his office to the highest bidder," Aber said.
Attorneys for the McDonnells told jurors the governor did what any of his predecessors would do for a Virginia-based company. They questioned Williams' character and said the couple couldn't have been scheming together because their marriage was falling apart.
Maureen McDonnell's lawyer, William A. Burck, said the former first lady was "duped" by Williams into thinking he cared for her and she and her husband were pretending to be a happy couple.
"They were barely on speaking terms," Burck said.
A lawyer for the former governor said Bob McDonnell will testify on his own behalf and read an email in which he begged his wife to work things out with him.
"It fell upon blind eyes and deaf ears because that evening, Maureen was distracted by other interests," defense attorney John Brownlee said.
Brownlee said the government went to great lengths looking for people to say bad things about his client, even sending investigators to interview former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, and "came up empty." McDonnell was widely mentioned as a possible Romney running mate in 2012.
Brownlee said the long hours Bob McDonnell spent at work fueled Maureen McDonnell's anger and resentment.
"She hated him for not being around, for serving the public night and day and not having anything left for her," Brownlee said.
The McDonnell's daughter, Cailin McDonnell Young, testified that she had to go through her father's scheduler in order see him. He would sometimes he take days to return phone calls.
"I barely ever saw my father," she said.
Young testified that Williams paid about $15,000 for catering at her wedding reception at the Executive Mansion.
"Our wedding now has a black cloud over it because of all that has happened and you can't look back at it with a happy memory," she testified.
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