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Witness: McDonnell struggled to rein in his wife


By MATTHEW BARAKAT and LARRY O'DELL

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - 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 Monday.

After prosecutors presented nearly three weeks of testimony in the public corruption trial of McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, lawyers for Bob McDonnell opened their defense with even more testimony that portrayed Maureen McDonnell badly, saying she lashed out when she didn't get her way.

Prosecutors say the McDonnells accepted more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements. The couple is charged in a 14-count indictment.

The tight relationship between Maureen McDonnell and Williams has been a key issue at trial, with the former governor's lawyers suggesting that she acted largely on her own to promote Williams' tobacco-based supplement, Anatabloc.

Janet Kelly, who served as secretary of the commonwealth under McDonnell, said she was personally fond of Maureen McDonnell and was reluctant to bash her any further.

"I don't want to just pile on," she said, fighting back tears.

But Kelly said she had 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.

She eventually agreed to have contact with her, she testified, when she learned that Maureen McDonnell was yelling at her husband nightly about the sorts of issues that Kelly had been ducking.

Kelly and other staffers intervened to thwart a mass resignation of the mansion staff, in which they wrote a joint letter stating that "to be treated like naughty children any time something doesn't suit you is completely unacceptable."

Kelly said the letter would be counterproductive because Maureen McDonnell was "pathologically incapable of accepting any responsibility."

And Kelly said Maureen McDonnell reacted badly when her husband told her at the outset of the administration that she would have to suspend her business selling vitamins and other supplements.

On the other hand, Kelly described the former governor as "extraordinarily gracious" and even-tempered.

"There was never a time he made me feel uncomfortable. Never a time I questioned his motives," she said.

Kelly testified that while the relationship between the McDonnells appeared to be strained, she said she observed Maureen McDonnell and Williams acting "kind of flirty" on a plane trip in 2012.

Defense attorneys have said the marriage was on the rocks and that Maureen had developed a crush on Williams, suggesting that the McDonnells could not have engaged in a criminal conspiracy because they were barely speaking.

Kelly, who played a key role in handing out jobs and appointments, testified that she was never asked to give any appointments or jobs to Williams or executives from his company. McDonnell wanted only the "best and the brightest" to serve in his administration, regardless of their political connections, she said.

Bob McDonnell's lawyer, Henry Asbill, sought to dispel the notion that McDonnell's influence could be bought, asking Kelly what the former governor's philosophy was for dealing with donors.

"If you can't take someone's money and vote against their bill the next day, you shouldn't be in politics," Kelly said.

Her testimony painted a different picture than that of another cabinet secretary, Bill Hazel. Testifying for prosecutors, he said that as health secretary he met with Williams only because McDonnell asked him to. Hazel thought little of Williams or his tobacco-derived supplement, Anatabloc, and testified that he and his staffers derisively referred to Williams as the "Tic-Tac man" for the samples he doled out.

Before testimony began, Judge James R. Spencer told lawyers that a third juror has been excused from the case, this one to tend to a family emergency. That leaves only one alternate.

Bob McDonnell is expected to testify in his own defense at some point in the trial.

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scr151 August 18 2014 at 5:38 PM

Sick of the corporate "welfare" benefits stories like these! Why are the rich so greedy? And people such as these are the first to talk about the ills of the poor, etc.

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2 replies
hello suzanne scr151 August 18 2014 at 8:05 PM

This system is set up for the greedy not the needy. Just watch the news one by one they will go down

Flag Reply +2 rate up
fwlrcj scr151 August 19 2014 at 9:16 AM

People with money immediately think they are better but the only difference is the money. Money doesn't make them elite just rich with the same behaviours are other people but now that can get away with it more.

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Beverly Doyle August 18 2014 at 4:41 PM

She may well have behaved like a spoiled brat, but that does not excuse Mr. McDonnell's inability to say, "No!" He didn't look miserable driving the fancy car, he didn't turn down the Rolex watch. I believe instead that this is a planned defense, having her take most of the blame and hoping to get them both lighter sentences as a result.

Flag Reply +21 rate up
5 replies
larryraybin August 18 2014 at 6:49 PM

they are both guilty, they suffer from the same disease as the Romeny's......Entitleitis! The same disease that most politicians suffer

Flag Reply +20 rate up
5 replies
larryraybin August 18 2014 at 6:43 PM

I don't understand why some of the trolls on this website are out in full bloom blaming Obama for this dirt bags corruption, "Oh I forgot they need to write their stupid stuff on other sites also

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3 replies
Chris August 18 2014 at 6:39 PM

at no point in the article does it mention that he is a republican. this is behavior totally consistent with political views that the republican party espouse, that some people are more worthy than others. reporters or editors should be ashamed to leave this affiliation out.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
3 replies
dutchhollo August 18 2014 at 5:37 PM

ALL Politicians are CROOKS just waiting to get caught. .NEVER ever trust one.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
2 replies
burlareaguy dutchhollo August 18 2014 at 9:25 PM

republicans are all crooks....bob mcdonnell is a republican and a crook.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
spock21757 dutchhollo August 19 2014 at 8:57 AM

all politicians are not crooks all crooks are politicians

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Oscar August 18 2014 at 5:48 PM

Makes it seem like the State's business was more like a family business. Some women can definitely control their miserable husbands. Or is she a scapegoat? In anycase, what they were doing and he was approving of was politically and legally suicide.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
rfleet1066 August 18 2014 at 4:36 PM

Why couldn't he buy his own watch? The Republicans have a propensity to achieve the 'cat bird seat' and summarily shoot themselves in the foot.
I grow weary of them.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
1 reply
bootsnchaps60 rfleet1066 August 18 2014 at 5:19 PM

Another GOPTP'er, AG Kenny, has been keeping a very low profile since he lost the election and his lead in helping the TP candidate take the nomination from the incumbent in MS (?) fizzled.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
toneitup August 18 2014 at 4:37 PM

Nice Lady you think she will be dating soon? Remember guys no matter how nice they seem at the begining they all turn into this woman!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
3 replies
bootsnchaps60 August 18 2014 at 5:11 PM

The finger pointing at Mo as the root cause of both taking advantage of Williams is lame. Does this really mean that GovBob was weak willed or just too distracted by his political aspirations to deal with her. Her mental state has nothing to do with his inability to pay for his daughter's wedding or the poor decisions GovBob made regarding the vacation homes owned with his sister that they couldn't afford.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
susan bootsnchaps60 August 18 2014 at 5:33 PM

I've noticed that the news always says the McDonnells when they talk about the vacation homes loans (that Johnnie Williams allegedly loaned them 100K to help with expenses) implying it's Maureen that co owns them.

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