Friday, January 19, 2018
News Roundup

Defense for former Virginia governor focuses on ailing marriage

RICHMOND, Va. — Former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and his wife, Maureen, on trial for conspiring to use his office for personal enrichment, outlined an unexpected defense Tuesday: Their marriage was so broken that they did not communicate enough to conspire about anything.

In opening statements in the couple's corruption trial in federal court here, their attorneys made clear that they planned to rely on the sordid details of their unhappy union as the basis of their legal defense. It was the first time the McDonnells' version of events had been heard in a widely publicized case that for months has been characterized by the lengthy indictment against them, which charges the couple with accepting more than $165,000 in cash and luxury gifts from a Virginia businessman.

Maureen McDonnell, her attorney said, had a "crush" on the businessman, Jonnie Williams, the prosecutors' star witness, who the government said would detail the designer clothing, vacations, golf rounds and cash he provided in exchange for the governor's help in promoting his company, which made a dietary supplement.

Williams was a frequent visitor to the Executive Mansion, where he and Maureen McDonnell would meet privately.

He was known as "Maureen's favorite playmate," attorney William Burck told jurors. "Maureen McDonnell and Jonnie Williams had a relationship some would consider improper for two people not married."

Over two years, Maureen McDonnell and Williams exchanged 1,200 phone calls and texts.

The government said that for Williams, it was about making money.

Jessica Aber, the assistant U.S. attorney trying the case, said: "For Mr. Williams, this was a business transaction. He was paying for help with his company."

According to both sides, Williams gained access to the governor by befriending the state's first lady, spending some $19,000 on a New York City shopping spree for designer clothes and accessories, and buying a $6,500 Rolex watch for her to present to her husband.

The motives of Williams, a vigorous entrepreneur known variously as a super salesman and someone whose businesses repeatedly ran afoul of government regulators, are likely to be front and center in the trial.

Prosecutors do not portray Williams as an angel. Aber described him dismissively as "a vitamin salesman." But she alleged a quid pro quo between gifts to the McDonnells and the governor's actions on his behalf.

If convicted on all counts, the McDonnells face more than 20 years in prison. Bob McDonnell, limited to one term under state law, left office in January.

Comments
Lightning falls to Golden Knights

Lightning falls to Golden Knights

TAMPA — The door to the Lightning dressing room remained closed a little longer than usual Thursday night, and that wasn’t surprising.After the kind of performance displayed in its 4-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, this had players-only meeti...
Updated: 4 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 18

Thursday’s scoreboardGirls basketballNortheast 64, Largo 24Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 3, Berkeley Prep 2Palm Harbor U. 7, Tarpon Springs 0Girls soccerCountryside 5, Pinellas Park 0Palm Harbor U. 5, Tarpon Springs 1...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

ST. PETERSBURG — One after another, speakers stepped to the lectern at City Hall on Thursday and described the same image: police cruisers on every corner in Midtown, uniformed officers lined up across the roadway, souring what should have been a joy...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa Bay record lows burst pipes, threaten berry and fish farms

Tampa Bay record lows burst pipes, threaten berry and fish farms

In winters past, when they ran the irrigation system at Parkesdale Farms to preserve the berry crop in a protective shell of ice, the icicles measured inches.But on Wednesday night, one of the coldest nights in years, the icicles hung more than a foo...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.Members of the business community, elected officials and executives with Metro Development Group and Crystal L...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Booty and books on Blackbeard’s ship; critics warn new Trump offic would allow doctors to discriminate; more in U.S. news

Booty and books on Blackbeard’s ship; critics warn new Trump offic would allow doctors to discriminate; more in U.S. news

North CarolinaBooty and books on boardDead men tell no tales, but there’s new evidence that somebody aboard the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship harbored books among the booty. In an unusual find, researchers have discovered shreds of paper bearing legib...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Consumer agency to spend rainy day funds

NEW YORK — The Trump-appointed acting director of the federal government’s consumer watchdog agency requested zero dollars of funding for its second-quarter budget, saying he intends to first spend down the agency’s rainy day fund. In a letter to the...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Man free on bail during DUI manslaughter appeal arrested for drinking alcohol

Man free on bail during DUI manslaughter appeal arrested for drinking alcohol

A Tampa man convicted of DUI manslaughter for drunkenly running down a tourist and released on bail while his case winds through the appeals process was arrested Tuesday.Brock Troutman, 34, violated the conditions of his release from jail by consumin...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Family recalls troubled youth for teen killer, now 39, who seeks new sentence

Family recalls troubled youth for teen killer, now 39, who seeks new sentence

TAMPA — The bearded man with shackled hands sat weeping as he listened to witness after witness — his mother, aunt and sister among them — recount his childhood of poverty, abuse, and depression.Kyle Moran leaned forward occasionally, stretching to w...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

PORT RICHEY — Loretta Santini was one of a small group of customers boarding a Tropical Breeze Casino shuttle Thursday afternoon as the company sailed for the first day since another of its shuttle boats burned to the water Sunday, killing one woman....
Updated: 10 hours ago