Virginia Ex-Governor Pursues “Crazy Wife” Defense

After nearly a year of legal wrangling, the Federal corruption trial of ex-Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen is well underway in Richmond.  The 14-count indictment charged the former first couple with accepting than $165,000 in undisclosed loans and luxury gifts from a dietary supplement tycoon, Jonnie Williams, in exchange for help in promoting Anatabloc, his new dietary supplement derived from tobacco.

Williams, granted immunity by the feds, testified earlier this month that when he wrote $65,000 in checks to the governor’s wife, “I needed to make sure her husband knew about it.”    According to Williams, he paid up after Maureen McDonnell told him that she and the governor were “in financial trouble” and that “The governor says it’s OK for me to help you, but you have to help me.”  He decided to loan the money to the governor because “I needed his help.”

The ex-governor took the stand this week, tossing aside Southern Chivalry to mount the so-called “Crazy Wife Defense.”  Careful to arrive in court each day separately from his wife, He testified that they had a “broken” marriage and were no longer living together, that his wife was prone to tantrums, that she needed professional help, and that she was a compulsive shopper.  He also suggested that she had a “strong emotional attachment” to another man: the government’s star witness, Jonnie Williams.   (Though he was also careful to say that he did not believe the relationship ever became physical).

McDonnell testified that he did not know about a $50,000 loan from Williams until after his wife used it to pay a $20,000 credit card bill and acquire $30,000 worth of stock of Williams’ company, Star Scientific.  Asked why he did not tell his wife to return the money, Williams replied that “I just needed to pick the battles with my wife on certain things very carefully.”

The couple vacationed at Williams’ lake house, and Maureen made sure that the Williams  Ferrari was there for the governor to use.  Best quote so far:  when asked why decided to drive the supercar back to Richmond, McDonnell replied, “It was a Ferrari . . . it was fun.”

Will this erstwhile Virginia gentleman win acquittal by throwing his wife of 38 years under the Ferrari?  We will know the answer in a few weeks.

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