Richmond, Va. – The Former First Lady’s mistreatment of mansion staff members was a main focus at the McDonnell federal corruption trial in Richmond Wednesday.
Maureen McDonnell’s former Chief of Staff described her as a screaming “nut bag”.
Mary Shea Sutherland spent much of the day on the stand.
Part of the defense’s argument is that Sutherland had more of a reason to help Star Scientific CEO Johnnie Williams than the McDonnells.
The Former Governor and First Lady are accused of accepting loans and lavish gifts from Williams. He testified they accepted those things in exchange for helping promote his dietary supplement.
Because of Sutherland’s unhappiness, she admitted she was searching for a new job less than two years after accepting her job with Mrs. McDonnell.
“I was 50 years old,” Sutherland said. “I thought I didn’t need to live this way.”
She also admitted she told other staff members about her intention to leave, but not the McDonnells.
“I didn’t want to deal with the hell that would come from it,” Sutherland explained.
Sutherland says she was in talks with several people about new work opportunities, including Williams at one point.
The Former First Lady’s defense team used that to their advantage during cross examination.
Defense attorneys grilled Sutherland about the breakfast and lunch meetings and phone calls and text messages she had with Williams.
Sutherland says Williams wanted her to go back to work for Benedetti and Farris Law and he would basically be her “anchor” client.
When asked by the defense if Williams was insistent she not leave her job at the governor’s mansion until after the August 2011 Anatabloc luncheon, she said “yes”.
But, while the defense seemed to be trying to make a point that Sutherland’s desire to find new work prevented her from protecting the First Lady from Williams’ requests, she told prosecutors otherwise.
Sutherland says she didn’t think it was a good idea to hold a launch party at the mansion, “I thought it would be risky.”
She says she never even met Williams before the shopping spree in New York where he dropped $20,000 on clothing and accessories for Maureen.
During that trip, Sutherland admitted Williams insisted on buying her a dress, “It was starting to become a scene, it was just easier to accept.”
That dress was presented as evidence by prosecutors in its original packaging as proof that Sutherland never wore it.
When asked by prosecutors if she told anyone else about the $15,000 loan Williams gave the McDonnells for their daughter’s wedding she said she did.
“It was a large amount from a donor and I didn’t want to be the only staff member to know about it,” Sutherland explained.
Defense attorneys have also argued that Williams was just a generous friend to the McDonnells and that Maureen had a crush on him which allowed him to wine and dine her.
Sutherland says the Former First Lady never mentioned having any romantic interest in Williams.
Maureen’s lawyer tried to undermine her testimony by asking if she had an immunity deal with the government. “There’s nothing to accuse me of,” Sutherland responded.