Jurors in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell have heard from a former Virginia health official. She testified that she met with the wealthy nutritional supplements executive who lavished the McDonnells with in gifts and loans.
When she took the stand yesterday, Molly Huffstetler outlined how she met with McDonnell's wife, Maureen, and Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams at the Governor's Mansion in August 2011. Prosecutors say the meeting is one of the benefits Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 he spent on the McDonnell family.
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment and could face decades in prison if convicted.
Huffstetler says Williams did almost all of the talking, but never specifically asked for anything. Her notes from the meeting indicate that Williams said a state tobacco commission was going to finance a study of Anatabloc. She testified it was not unusual for McDonnell to request such meeting, and that she felt no pressure to do anything more for Williams.
"The government is going to take what happened with the health official and argue that setting up that meeting was a benefit as a result of an official act," says Michael Levy, a white-collar defense attorney.
Levy says both sides got something out of her testimony.
"The defense is going to argue it wasn't a benefit as the result of an official act because it would have happened anyhow, and in any event, it was nothing but a meeting. It lasted an hour and nothing ever happened from it," he says.
But Rich Kelsey of the George Mason Law School disagrees.
"I thought that she added very, very little to the discussion, in fact was generally not helpful really to either party and to that extent she's obviously helpful to the defense," Kelsey says.
Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case next week.