RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday that he did not think it was inappropriate to take a $50,000 loan from a Virginia businessman to help cover the ownership costs of vacation rental properties.
McDonnell was back on the witness stand as his public corruption trial resumed in federal court in Richmond.
The former governor and his wife are charged 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 dietary supplements.
McDonnell has said he did nothing illegal. When asked by one of his attorneys Friday if he would have taken Williams' loan if he thought it was corrupting his office, McDonnell replied: "absolutely not."
The former governor also testified that his wife initiated conversations with Williams about the loan without his knowledge. McDonnell said he and his sister, who co-owned vacation rental properties under a company called MoBo Realty, used low-interest loans instead of their own money to pay for the properties because they thought it was a smart financial move.
McDonnell has been on the witness stand for three straight days. On Thursday, the former governor gave often emotional testimony about his deteriorating relationship with his wife.
McDonnell said he got in the habit of working late to escape his wife's wrath and has again taken refuge during the trial — this time at the rectory in St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
"I knew that there was no way I could go home after a day in court ... and revisit things every night with Maureen," McDonnell said.
McDonnell and his wife have had little interaction during the first 19 days of their trial.
The couple's marriage is a key element of the defense, which suggests they could not have engaged in a criminal conspiracy because they were barely communicating.
McDonnell choked up at times Thursday, speaking in a melancholy tone and sometimes pausing before answering questions from his lawyer. He became particularly emotional as he described what led him to write a forlorn email to his wife on Labor Day 2011, after she rejected his efforts to spend the weekend with her.
"I was heartbroken," he said, and worried "that this was maybe the end of my marriage."
He apologized for being absent so much because of his political career, but wrote, "I am completely at a loss as to how to handle the fiery anger and hate from you that has become more and more frequent."
Maureen McDonnell never responded, he testified. Meanwhile, he said he learned while preparing for the trial that she had been in contact with Williams four times that day. He also learned from the investigation that his wife and Williams had exchanged 950 phone calls and texts in 2011.
"I was actually hurt" that she was communicating more with Williams than with him, McDonnell said.
McDonnell testified that he doesn't believe his wife had an affair with Williams, but that they had developed an intense, emotional connection to which he had been oblivious.
The marital tension worsened in late 2011, McDonnell said, when he would often come home to his wife's overblown complaints about her staff. McDonnell said his wife yelled over the phone at assistants and became angry with him when he told her she shouldn't treat the staff so badly.
"I got to the point where I just couldn't come home and deal with that," McDonnell said, so he started staying at the office well into the night to avoid going home.