By: Ryan Nobles
Jonnie Williams, the man at the center of the scandal that nearly brought down a governorship and could end up sending Bob and Maureen McDonnell to prison made his first appearance in Federal Court today.
Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific, was called to the witness stand shortly after 4:30pm.
For many of us that have covered this scandal from the beginning- this was the first time we'd ever laid eyes on the slick businessman.
And frankly Williams did not disappoint.
He went into great detail about his relationship with the McDonnells.
The prosecution spent a lot of time focused on Maureen. Williams said that the then First Lady told him the McDonnells were on the verge of bankruptcy and she hinted that if he was able to help them, they could help him.
Williams had a much different take on his relationship with the first family than then they have often described.
"He is a politician, and I am a businessman," Williams said describing how he felt about the former Governor. When asked directly by the prosecutor if he even considered Governor McDonnell a friend, Williams replied "no".
Perhaps the most damning testimony was Williams alluding to the fact that McDonnell knew about all the money Williams was giving Maureen.
"He's the bread winner and I am not writing his wife any checks without him knowing it," said Williams.
Williams was one of four witnesses who took the stand on Wednesday. The morning session was dedicated to his personal assistant Jerri Fulkerson.
Fulkerson was responsible for cutting many of the checks given to the McDonnell family and setting up the travel and lodging for the family that was paid for by her boss.
She testified that she often set up private plane travel for the McDonnell children and helped Williams give McDonnell's oldest daughter Jeanine a $10 thousand check as a wedding gift. Jeanine's husband is Adam Zubowsky- the former Governor's one time personal aide.
The defense countered that Williams was generous with many people and booked private plane flights for many politicians including John McCain and Mitt Romney.
But Williams never did that for the children of another politician and according to former U.S. Attorney Chuck James that is an important distinction.
"Certainly what they are doing here is saying the conduct that was seen by the McDonnells here was so different than what was seen by anyone in Virginia politics or national politics," said James. "That is what is unseemly."
The prosecution also called McDonnell's son Robert Ryan McDonnell to the stand. McDonnell, who goes by Bobby described his relationship with Williams in depth. He called the businessman a mentor and friend.
Bobby McDonnell received many gifts from Williams, including rounds of golf at his private club, a brand new set of golf clubs in a UVA Ping bag and shirts and gear from the swanky Kinloch Club in Goochland.
Despite all the gifts and their close relationship, which included regular text exchanges, Bobby claimed it was completely separate from his father.
The defense asked Bobby about the Rolex watch that Maureen gave to the former governor, which was widely reported prior to their indictment. Maureen received the watch from Williams. Bobby claimed when he first saw the watch he thought it was a fake.
"I thought it was a knock off because the second hand ticked," said Bobby McDonnell. "I had always heard that the second hand on Rolexes roll."
Williams testimony is far from over. He will be back on the stand first thing Thursday morning. The prosecution has yet to finish and then he will face cross examination from the counsel of both Bob and Maureen McDonnell.
His testimony could end up being one of the key moments in the case.