Richmond, Va. – Lawyers for Virginia’s former First Lady called her relationship with businessman Jonnie Williams “inappropriate” in opening statements today.
Maureen McDonnell's defense attorneys described a rocky marriage with her husband, one that had a broken foundation which led her into the arms of the CEO and founder of Star Scientific, John Williams Sr.
Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer said in court that Williams was her “favorite playmate” and that they would meet frequently upstairs in the governor’s mansion. Her attorney said the McDonnell’s marriage had “broken down” during his years in office and that Williams “Filled the void in Maureen’s life” according to WTVR.
The defense said the case is not the Bonnie and Clyde type that federal prosecutors want you to believe - as the McDonnells were hardly on speaking terms at the time and could not have been conspiring to gain riches.
During opening arguments, prosecutors told the court Bob McDonnell wasn't rich before taking the governor's office and to maintain his wealthy lifestyle and keep his family's beach rental properties afloat, he began accepting loans and gifts from Williams in exchange for helping Williams sell his supplement product Anatabolic. The gifts included designer clothes, a Rolex watch, golf clubs, iPhones and a painting, according to a list of items included in the indictment.
Mrs. McDonnell's attorneys paint a very different story. One that suggests she was overwhelmed by her role as First Lady and where Williams swooped in while she and her husband were having problems.
Williams listened to her, the defense says, and took her shopping and out to dinner while the governor was working long hours at the office.
The defense says Williams often made trips to the governor's mansion where he and Maureen would usually spend time privately.
But while Maureen believed Williams generally cared for her, her attorneys told the court, he actually duped her and used her and the governor to get out of other possible legal battles without revealing his motives to them.
Prosecutors insist that Williams' relationship with the McDonnells was strictly business and nothing more. They say they have emails, text messages and other documents to prove it.
The pair have pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of fraud, making false statements, and obstruction. They were indicted in January after McDonnell left office.
The McDonnells lost their bid for separate trials.