governor's wife hid gifts, says corruption trial witness
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[August 09, 2014]
By Gary Robertson
RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - The wife of
former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell was known among staffers for
hiding gifts in the executive mansion, an aide to the governor testified
during the first couple's corruption trial on Friday.
Matt Conrad, McDonnell's deputy chief of staff, said aides were
worried that if some of the gifts hidden by first lady Maureen
McDonnell were also intended for the governor they needed to be
recorded on financial disclosure forms.
"I heard there were piles of gifts in closets," Conrad said on the
tenth day of the trial in U.S. District Court.
McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife face 14 counts of corruption
and bribery for allegedly accepting the gifts and loans from
businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for supporting his
former company Star Scientific, a dietary supplements maker.
Paul Perito, the former chairman and chief operating officer of Star
Scientific, now known as Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals Inc, testified
that he had no idea of Williams' largesse toward the McDonnells.
Perito said he knew that Williams was playing golf with the governor
and having dinner with the first lady. He generally thought courting
them was a good idea.
"If the governor of the state embraces the product ... it gives it
credibility," Perito said.
He added that the governor told him he personally took Anatabloc,
Star Scientific's main product, at a launch of the product at the
governorís mansion in August 2011.
But Perito said he was "astounded" when Williams disclosed the full
extent of his gift-giving and immediately called company lawyers.
In other testimony on Friday, John Piscitelli, a broker for
Davenport & Co in Richmond, said the McDonnells asked him in
February 2012 how to borrow money on shares of Williams' company
that were being held for them.
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Williams said earlier in the trial that he planned to extend his
shares in the company to the couple from which they could borrow
The prosecutor asked the broker if it concerned him that a publicly
traded company was holding shares for a high-ranking government
"It was puzzling," Piscitelli said.
The transaction never went through though, the broker added, saying
the couple wanted to go another way.
To win a conviction, prosecutors must convince the jury that the
governor took official acts to help Williams. Attorneys for the
couple have argued that accepting the gifts and money was unseemly
but not illegal.
If convicted, the McDonnells could face more than 20 years in prison
and a large fine. McDonnell's four-year term as governor ended in
(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by
Curtis Skinner, Bill Trott, Eric Beech and Lisa Shumaker)
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