RICHMOND, Va. — The former first family of Virginia flew on a chief executive’s private jet, vacationed at his lake house and received other perks, such as passes to a Ritz Carlton beach club, the businessman’s assistant said Wednesday.
Jerri Fulkerson’s testimony came in the corruption trial for ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. The couple is accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Fulkerson’s boss, Jonnie Williams, in exchange for promoting his company’s products. Williams is the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., a Virginia-based company.
Fulkerson told the jury about arranging trips for members of the McDonnell family and writing checks for two loans totaling $70,000. She said she did so at the direction of Williams, who is expected to testify under immunity as the prosecution’s star witness.
Among the trips Fulkerson said she arranged were a McDonnell family vacation at a lake house owned by Williams and flights for some of the five McDonnell children to Florida, Georgia and a resort in Virginia. Some of those trips included the use of Williams’ Range Rover, sailing excursions and other perks, such as the beach club passes, she said.
Williams also flew Bob and Maureen McDonnell and others to Cape Cod on his private jet, Fulkerson testified.
She said Williams had allowed many politicians — including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and two former state attorneys general — to use his plane, but that none of those people ever asked him to fly their children anywhere.
McDonnell, once considered a possible running mate to Romney, left office in January.
On Tuesday, defense attorneys presented the sordid details of the McDonnells’ troubled marriage, part of a legal strategy some say may be a key part of their defense.
“Basically, they’re saying there’s no conspiracy because there’s no marriage,” said Robert D. Holsworth, a consultant and retired Virginia Commonwealth University political scientist.
Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer, William A. Burck, told jurors that the former first lady had a crush on Williams and was “duped” by him into thinking he cared for her. The former first lady’s attorneys have suggested that she was not an elected or paid official and, therefore, not subject to the same scrutiny as her husband.
A lawyer for the former governor said Bob McDonnell will testify on his own behalf and read an email in which he begged his wife to work things out with him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber said McDonnell and his wife betrayed the public’s trust by lining their pockets with “secret gifts and cash.”
McDonnells’ attorneys sought to have the couple tried separately, but the judge refused.
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