Corruption trial focuses on wife of former Virginia governor
RICHMOND — Former Gov. Bob McDonnell struggled to rein in his wife's erratic behavior, causing turmoil throughout the executive staff and nearly prompting a mass resignation among workers in the governor's mansion, a defense witness testified on Monday.
Former McDonnell administration officials said McDonnell never pressed them to help the one-time CEO of a nutritional-supplements company. The businessman wanted the state Tobacco Commission's funding for universities to conduct research on his chief product — the anti-inflammatory Anatabloc.
Once prosecutors presented nearly three weeks of testimony in the public-corruption trial of McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, lawyers for the former Republican governor opened their defense with more testimony that portrayed his wife badly. Lawyers said the first lady lashed out when she didn't get her way.
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's supplements.
The tight relationship between Maureen McDonnell and Williams has been a key issue at trial. Bob McConnell's lawyers suggested that she acted largely on her own to promote the tobacco-based Anatabloc.
Janet Kelly, who served as secretary of the commonwealth under McDonnell, said she was fond of Maureen McDonnell and was reluctant to bash her any further. One former Maureen McDonnell staffer has acknowledged calling her old boss a “nutbag,” while another said Bob McDonnell was in denial about his wife's “mental capacity.”
“I don't want to just pile on,” Kelly said, fighting back tears.
Kelly testified that she has known about Maureen's “challenging behavior” for years and that she took the job as secretary of the commonwealth only after receiving assurances she wouldn't have to deal with Maureen.
Kelly said she eventually agreed to have contact when she learned that Maureen McDonnell was yelling at her husband nightly about the sorts of issues that Kelly had been ducking.
The former secretary and other staffers intervened to thwart a mass resignation of the mansion staff. They wrote a joint letter stating that “to be treated like naughty children any time something doesn't suit you is completely unacceptable.”