Email: Gov. McDonnell screams, juror makes hasty exit - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Email: Gov. McDonnell screams, juror makes hasty exit

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A top adviser to Gov. Bob McDonnell testified Tuesday he attempted to shut down the now infamous dress saga between Maureen McDonnell and former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, but was met with a confidential email that only heightened the drama.

"It came from Maureen McDonnell, in December 2009," said McDonnell Counselor and Senior Policy Adviser Jasen Eige. "I told her the optics would have looked bad, in the middle of a recession, if Mr. Williams bought the first lady a $20,000 dress."

Prosecutors entered the email from Mrs. McDonnell into evidence, and displayed the text on two large LCD panels for the jury to view.

"I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget," wrote Mrs. McDonnell. "I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I'm charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done."

Government prosecutors moved from the subject of the email to the former governor's working relationship with Williams. Eige was asked to describe his thoughts on a proposed Star Scientific product launch in the Executive Mansion, set for late August 2011.

"I didn't think it was an appropriate use of state property," Eige said.

After he expressed his concerns, Eige said the Mansion event was changed to become a working luncheon. During the event, Williams awarded $200,000 in grants to both the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Williams distributed the funds with the understanding that they would be used to study his new dietary supplement, Anatabloc.

Months later, emails produced by prosecutors showed little had happened with Anatabloc, prompting Mrs. McDonnell to ask Eige to move the clinical trial process along faster.

"I didn't think it was an appropriate activity for the governor's office," Eige said. "We can't tell universities what to do."

Jurors also saw an email from Gov. McDonnell to Eige, dated Feb. 17, 2012.

"Pls see me about anatabloc issues at VCU + UVA. Tnx," read the email.

"Will do," responded Eige. "We need to be careful with this issue."

Earlier Tuesday, the defense said Williams received few benefits through the former First Couple. Defense attorneys asserted the McDonnells arranged special meetings to thank Williams, but had low expectations the meetings would produce results.

Molly Huffstetler, former deputy director of the Virginia Health Reform Initiative, said she was only respecting a request to meet with Williams, and never had any intention of following up with him.

"I was never told by anyone to help Star Scientific," said Molly Huffstetler, former deputy director of the Virginia Health Reform Initiative. "We had just one meeting back in July 2011."

Defense attorneys characterized the access provided by the McDonnells as, "thank you, but no," with "no" pertaining to direct action that could help Williams' company.

The defense also argued the McDonnells needed to thank Williams for a specific resource - the use of his private jet to attend events.

"[Williams] saved our butts numerous times," said former McDonnell scheduler Monica Block Tuesday.

Block also testified she may have said Williams was Mrs. McDonnell's "blind spot," leading defense attorney Heather Martin to suggest the former first lady was "blinded by Jonnie Williams' charms."

"Would you also say [Mrs. McDonnell] would feel frustrated because she felt abandoned?" Martin asked. Block was unsure of how to answer, with U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer quickly sustaining a prosecution objection.

Testimony ended Tuesday when a juror unceremoniously got up, and left.

"Your honor, I need to be excused," she said around 5:15 p.m.

With that, Judge Spencer agreed, and dismissed court in the middle of testimony from FBI Special Agent Tim Huff.

Testimony resumes Wednesday with Huff on the stand.

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