McDonnell Trial: Was Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams buying support or just a generous friend?

Posted at 10:11 AM, Aug 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-12 10:11:18-04

Former state Attorney General, Jerry Kilgore testified the wealthy business man at the heart of the McDonnell federal corruption trial repeatedly told him that the Governor and First Lady support his product.

Kilgore took the stand late Monday in week three of the trial. He started working as a lobbyist for Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in 2011 assisting with the application process to get state tobacco funds for research of his dietary supplement Anatabloc.

Kilgore says he told Williams the Tobacco Commission is more likely to fund research done by a state university like UVA and VCU.

Star Scientific never applied for the funding partly because Williams was unable to get full support from those universities.

Sharon Krueger with the University of Virginia testified that researchers felt pressured to get involved.

In trying to decide, Krueger created a ‘pros and cons’ list which prosecutors brought into evidence. Krueger’s first ‘con’ listed read “pressure from the Governor.”

Prosecutors say Williams bought the support of former Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell who accepted loans and lavish gifts from him in exchange for their help promoting his product.

But, defense attorneys are trying to prove Williams was just a generous friend to the McDonnells. The defense has also argued the Governor was just living up to his brand- creating jobs and supporting Virginia businesses.

On top of university officials and doctors, prosecutors have recently called several staff members to the stand try to show McDonnell willingly participated in a ‘corrupt agreement’.

The head of the VA Department of Human Resource Management testified Monday.

Sarah Wilson told prosecutors McDonnell pulled out a bottle of Anatabloc during a state meeting and told everyone ‘it had helped him’.

That was following a meeting Wilson says she previously had with a Star Scientific employee who asked her to add Anatabloc to the state health plan.

But, whether the Governor taking out the pill bottle had anything to do with the earlier request from Star’s employee, Wilson says she doesn’t know.

“I don’t know why he pulled it out. There was no ask,” Wilson explained to McDonnell’s lawyer during cross examination.

Witnesses have previously testified that the former Governor admitted to taking Anatabloc. When asked outside the Richmond Federal Courthouse if he’s still taking the product, “No, I’m not.”

McDonnell’s former right hand man testified first Monday morning beginning week three of the trial.

Martin Kent told prosecutors the Governor’s Ferrari ride hurt the ‘morale’ of the executive protection unit.

Prosecutors clicked through more than a dozen photos for the jury to see of McDonnell behind the wheel of Williams’ sports car.

The former Chief of Staff says the priority of the unit is to protect the Governor and part of doing that means driving him wherever he goes.

Prosecutors questioned Kent several times whether he knew about the checks Williams wrote Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell, the $20,000 Williams spent on Maureen on shopping spree in New York and the golf outings Bob and his sons had on Williams’ dime.

Kent said he wasn’t aware if any of it.

In fact, Kent told prosecutors he approached the Governor about the loans once the investigation went public.

“It was a matter he was discussing with his counsel and we shouldn’t get into it further,” is how he says McDonnell responded.

Kent did tell defense attorneys he doesn’t believe McDonnell ever asked for anything to help Williams or Star Scientific.

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore will continue his testimony Tuesday morning. It’s speculated Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms could take the stand Tuesday afternoon.