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At corruption trial, former Virginia first lady portrayed as disturbed diva

Maureen McDonnell arrives at the federal courthouse in Richmond, VirginiaIn testimony Monday, a former top aide to the ex governor of Viriginia described the former first lady as a flirtatious, unstable bully with a quick temper.

Janet Kelly, a defense witness, said Maureen McDonnell’s tantrums against the staff at the governor’s mansion strained the first couple’s marriage. 

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maureen are accused in a 14-count federal indictment of taking $160,000 in loans and gifts from Jonnie Williams, the chief of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, in exchange for using the governor’s office to promote Star’s products.

McDonnell was governor of Virginia from 2010 until early 2014. He and his wife were indicted ten days after his term ended.

The McDonnells each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Kelly described a revolt in early 2012 when Maureen’s entire staff threatened to quit.

The staffers wrote a joint letter saying that “to be treated like naughty children any time something doesn’t suit you is completely unacceptable.”

They were delivering the letter by hand to the first lady when Kelly intervened, saying the letter would be counterproductive because Maureen was “pathologically incapable of accepting any responsibility.”

One former member of the staff acknowledged calling Maureen a “nutbag” and another said the ex-governor was in denial about his wife’s mental capacity.

Kelly said in her testimony, “[Maureen] was very difficult, very demanding, very diva-ish. My relationship with the first lady had deteriorated beyond the point of common sense.”

The McDonnells’ defense teams are arguing that the governor and his wife couldn’t have conspired and colluded as prosecutors allege because their marriage was so broken they barely spoke to each other.

Maureen’s lawyers said she had a crush on Williams.

Kelly testified that Maureen’s treatment of Williams was “kind of flirty. It was very, very, very friendly.”

Williams, who has been given immunity from prosecution, said in his testimony that he didn’t know Maureen had a romantic interest in him.

The trial continues this week in Richmond, Virginia.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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