This Friday afternoon we see the end of the first week of the McDonnell corruption trial in Richmond.
What has been lost in the headlines, and soap opera coverage have been some very telling moments in week one.
Gifts: Plane rides
The McDonnells in 2010 and 2011 treated Star Scientific’s jet as if it was their private air taxi. Maureen McDonnell, through her assistant, would request the use of the jet for themselves and their family members. In short, if the jet was available, they were allowed to take it. I was trying to figure out why these expensive trips were not considered part of the actual corruption, and then I found some older reporting indicating that air travel was actually reported on campaign finance statements . . . as indicated here. At least some of the plane rides were not secret.
The soap opera
Maureen Mcdonnell’s counsel claim that she was infatuated with Jonnie Williams. Williams has been claiming on the stand that this was purely a business relationship. Yet, Jonnie Williams and Maureen McDonnell had two very late night texting sessions in May and December of 2011. Jonnie Williams, when confronted with the phone records, denied that they occurred. There may be a credibility problem for Mr. Williams . . .
Johnnie Williams acknowledged that he never told Governor McDonnell about his spending on the New York trip with Maureen McDonnell.
Quid pro quo
In order for McDonnell to be successfully prosecuted for corruption a quid-pro-quo will need to be shown. Although there are written communications directly from Governor McDonnell asking for a loan, there is absolutely zero discussion of what is being exchanged for this loan or any previous act of generosity.
The giving was not always in one direction. In a text message on January 24, 2013 the McDonnells offered to Jonnie Williams and Star Scientific the use of their beach house for personal or business use. It does not appear Jonnie Williams took them up on the offer.
Was Jonnie Williams a business associate or a friend?
Jonnie Williams will rise or fall as the key witness based on whether the prosecution can establish that Jonnie Williams and the McDonnells were engaging in business transactions. If they were actually friends, the corruption case is gutted. Jonnie Williams has been repeatedly emphatic that this was a business relationship.
On March 30, 2013 the Washington Post blew this story wide open, exposing the potential improprieties to the public.
Government Exhibit 506 appears to contain a text message from Jonnie Williams to Maureen McDonnell on March 31, 2013, the day after the article stating:
This exhibit, by itself tends to establish either that Jonnie Williams was friends with the McDonnells and is a liar on the stand, or that Jonnie Williams is a liar in real life.
On a final note, thank goodness the week is done, as we all agree with Judge Spencer from Thursday afternoon when discussing Jonnie Williams’ testimony “I can’t take any more of it.”