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Ex-Virginia governor talks about marriage at trial

August 21, 2014
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Gov. Bob McDonnell became so weary of his wife's overblown complaints about her staff that he began taking refuge in his office until late at night rather than go home and listen to her, he testified Thursday.

He also told jurors at his public corruption trial that he often heard his wife, Maureen, yelling at her assistants — usually over little things.

"She would say things over the phone that were absolutely inappropriate," McDonnell said. He told her she shouldn't treat governor's mansion employees so badly, but she didn't want to hear it, he said.

Their rocky relationship is a key part of their defense. Their attorneys have suggested they couldn't have conspired in a gifts-for-favors scandal with a wealthy businessman because their communications had broken down.

"She would yell at me, say I was taking the staff's side and I didn't know what was going on over there," said McDonnell, whose testimony was often punctuated with long, heavy pauses.

The tension at the governor's mansion and his futile attempts to smooth it over hurt his marriage, which was already strained by his frequent absences and his wife's struggle with her public role as first lady, McDonnell said.

The former governor and his wife are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.

McDonnell testified that he had hoped that professional management experts from Virginia Commonwealth University would be able to help his wife's relationship with the mansion staff, because he wasn't getting through to her.

"The public part of the first lady's office was going well. The private part was a disaster," he said.

McDonnell also said that early in his career, he devoted time to being a state legislator, Army Reservist and lawyer in private practice. He said his wife resented his long stretches away from the family and the tension of their marriage escalated as McDonnell's political career took off. Things got worse when he moved his family from their long-time home in Virginia Beach to Richmond when he became attorney general in 2006.

McDonnell said that while his wife enjoyed some parts of the political world, she grew anxious in the spotlight.

"She was a mom and she did it very well. The public life was one that caused her more stress," McDonnell said.

Other witnesses, including several former Maureen McDonnell aides, have testified that she was miserable as first lady. She hated public speaking and the loss of privacy, and she was prone to angry outbursts.

Bob McDonnell also testified that his wife had once used one of his campaign lists when he was attorney general to try and market vitamins without his knowledge. McDonnell said he was angered by the move and told his wife she couldn't do that. His defense lawyers have suggested that McDonnell was unaware of many aspects of Maureen McDonnell's relationship with Williams, including some of the gifts she received.



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