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Maureen McDonnell's Former Chief Of Staff Draws Back The Curtain At Corruption Trial

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This May 5, 2011 photo provided by the office of the Governor of Virginia shows Jonnie Williams, right, and Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell, left, during a reception for the NASCAR race at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, Va. Former executive assistant for Mrs. McDonnell, Mary Shea Sutherland, center, listens to the conversation.
(AP Photo/Office of the Governor of Virginia, Michaele White)
This May 5, 2011 photo provided by the office of the Governor of Virginia shows Jonnie Williams, right, and Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell, left, during a reception for the NASCAR race at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, Va. Former executive assistant for Mrs. McDonnell, Mary Shea Sutherland, center, listens to the conversation.

The woman who served as chief of staff to Virginia's former first lady offered insight into life at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond.

Mary-Shea Sutherland described working for Maureen McDonnell as a hellish experience. On the stand in the corruption trial of former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, she described frequent outbursts from the first lady. By contrast, she described the governor as a kind man who said his wife was having a hard time adjusting to her new role.

White-collar criminal defense attorney Michael Levy says that's a distinction that could be important later.

"This witness in particular seems to be distinguishing between the two different defendants, and I think that may be significant as the jury starts to analyze the charges against each individual defendant separately," Levy says.

Sutherland also dealt a blow to "the crush defense", a theory outlined by defense attorneys that first lady Maureen McDonnell was infatuated with Jonnie Williams. That's the wealthy Virginia businessman who was seeking power and influence from the governor's office to promote his company's products, especially a product called Anatabloc, which is made from tobacco.

She told jurors that the McDonnell marriage seemed solid to her, adding that Maureen McDonnell read her a poem that the governor wrote for her in 2011. She also testified that the McDonnells agreed to use the governor's mansion to help Star Scientific launch Anatabloc in August 2011.

Levy says that puts more pressure on Maureen McDonnell to take the stand.

"The only witness who can really make that defense for Ms. McDonnell is likely to be Ms. McDonnell herself," he says.

Prosecutors are expected to continue outlining their case today and most of next week.

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