Former McDonnell staffer: “They seem like a very happy, in love couple”

Posted at 9:55 AM, Aug 08, 2014

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Sarah Scarbrough is one of several former staff members called to the witness stand in week two of the McDonnell Federal corruption trial.

The former mansion event planner told FBI investigators "Mr. McDonnell worshipped the ground Mrs. McDonnell walks on."

When prosecutors asked her about the McDonnell's relationship Thursday, she said "They seem like a very happy, in love couple."

Defense attorneys have argued Star Scientific CEO Johnnie Williams 'poisoned' an already 'broken' marriage.

During cross examination, Maureen McDonnell's lawyer questioned Scarbrough about another statement she made to investigators.

She admitted she told officials she thought Mr. McDonnell was in denial about his wife's 'mental capacity.' She also said she didn't their relationship was the healthiest when it came to 'communication'.

The former Governor and First Lady accepted loans and expensive gifts from Williams.

Williams says he took Maureen on a $20,000 shopping spree in New York, paid for golf outings for Mr. McDonnell and his sons, loaned them $15,000 for their daughter's wedding reception and bought a $6,000 to $7,000 Rolex watch for Maureen to give to her husband for Christmas.

The McDonnell family also vacationed at Williams' Smith Mountain Lake home where he had a boat and his Ferrari delivered for their use.

In all, Williams dished out around $165,000.

Williams testified he did all of that in exchange for the couple's help promoting his dietary supplement.

Scarbrough told prosecutors she didn't know about a $50,000 check Williams wrote to the McDonnells or the golf outings. She said she did know about the Ferrari because "people in the mansion who seen it were talking about it."

Scabrough described their reaction as 'surprised.'

She also used the word 'surprised' to describe the reaction of the former First Lady's Chief of Staff regarding the $15,000 loan for Cailin McDonnell's wedding and the shopping spree.

While Williams insists the McDonnells knew exactly what they were doing, both defense teams are trying to prove Williams was just a generous friend.

Prosecutors tried to undercut that argument by questioning Scarbrough about the Anatabloc event held at the mansion in August 2011.

The former mansion event planner says it didn't seem like a 'typical' mansion event.

"We hadn't placed any products in front of plates before," she explained.

Several witnesses previously testified that samples of Williams' dietary product were placed at each table setting.

Those witnesses also testified that the Governor attended the event and made remarks.

Scarbrough also told prosecutors she suggested the Governor's political action committee (PAC) pay for the luncheon because she wasn't sure if it was meant to benefit the state or Williams.

In general, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources stated on the stand Thursday afternoon, "I can't recall that there was ever a situation quite like this one."

Dr. Bill Hazel expressed more than skepticism regarding Williams' claims about his product.

"They were unbelievable to me let's just put it that way."

During a November 2010 meeting held in his office, Dr. Hazel says "he [Williams] actually took some of the pills while he was there" and left samples.

Needless to say, Dr. Hazel explained Williams became known as "the tic-tac man" to his staff following that meeting.

Dr. Hazel also described being 'frustrated' when he learned Williams and around a dozen other doctors and researchers associated with Star Scientific and the Anatabloc studies were added to the invite list for the Healthcare Leaders Reception held at the mansion in February 2012.

At one point, Dr. Hazel also generally stated, "I don't think I was ever looking at a product quite like this."

Surprisingly, the former Governor's lawyer declined the chance to cross exam Hazel.

When asked at the end of the day if Hazel was helpful or hurtful to the defense's case, Mr. McDonnell responded "I'll leave that up to you to decide."

After testifying late Thursday, McDonnell's former Press Secretary, Tucker Martin, admitted to reporters he is 'disappointed'.

"I would be misleading you if I didn't say that it's disappointing. I'm disappointed to be right here, right now but I think I just backed away from it and he's getting a fair trial and he's [Bob McDonnell] a good man," Martin said.