- McDonnell testified about his troubled marriage to wife Maureen at length during their public corruption trial on Thursday
- He moved out of their home and into a rectory at the start of the trial because he could not face returning there every day after court
- He said he knew it was over in 2011 when she avoided spending a weekend with him and he wrote her an email saying he couldn’t deal with her anger
- The couple are accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams to promote his company’s products
Lydia Warren for MailOnline
and Associated Press
20:19 GMT, 21 August 2014
23:34 GMT, 21 August 2014
Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has moved out of his home and is living with a priest at a rectory instead, he has revealed during his corruption trial.
McDonnell left the home he shared with his wife of 38 years, Maureen, the week before their trial began, he revealed as he testified extensively about their troubled relationship on Thursday.
He said that although he only recently left the home, he concluded that his marriage was over in September 2011 after he became angry and exhausted at the relationship.
The couple both stand accused of 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.
Family troubles: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell arrives at court with his daughter Cailin Young on Thursday, when he detailed the extent of his marital woes with wife Maureen during their corruption trial
But the McDonnells say their marriage was broken and that they were barely speaking, let alone engaged in a criminal conspiracy.
On Thursday, the former governor testified that he had written a long email to his wife three years ago trying to save his marriage, calling her his ‘soulmate’ – yet he also said he grew so weary of her yelling that he began taking refuge in his office late at night rather than go home.
McDonnell choked up at various times and became particularly emotional as he described writing to his wife on Labor Day 2011, after she had rejected his efforts to spend the weekend together.
‘I was heartbroken,’ he said, and worried ‘that this was maybe the end of my marriage’.
He began the email ‘I love you’ but said the weekend ‘was one of the lowest points of my life’.
‘You tell me all the time how bad your life has been with me,’ he wrote.
In the spotlight: Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell arrives at court with her attorney William Burck in Richmond, Virginia on Thursday as her – now estranged – husband took the stand in his defense
He apologized for being absent, but said, ‘I am completely at a loss at the anger and… that has become more frequent and… exhausted,’ he wrote.
Maureen McDonnell never responded, he testified. He explained that he later moved into the rectory because he couldn’t face going back to his wife every day after the trial.
Meanwhile, he said he learned while preparing for the trial that she had been in contact with Williams four different times that day.
At first, he thought they shared a natural bond over dietary supplements – Maureen McDonnell had sold nutritional supplement for decades as a part-time business. She was crushed when he told her it would be inappropriate to continue selling vitamins as first lady, he said.
McDonnell testified that he doesn’t believe his wife had an affair with Williams, but that they had developed an intense, emotional connection to which he had been oblivious.
At the center: They are accused of accepting more than $165,000 from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams, pictured earlier this month, in exchange for promoting his company’s dietary supplements
Close: McDonnell said he did not believe his wife Maureen had an affair with Williams, both pictured, but that he had realized her connection with the businessman had been much deeper than he thought
The former governor’s lawyers have argued McDonnell did nothing more for Williams than he would for any other Virginia businessman.
McDonnell said in April 2011, he told his wife they should start entertaining one or two couples at a time for dinner for the sake of ‘some sense of normalcy’. Maureen suggested inviting Williams and his wife, Celeste.
‘We were friendly,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t say at that point we were yet friends.’
He said his daughter Cailin dropped by, and the topic of her upcoming wedding came up.
A couple of weeks later, McDonnell said he learned Williams wanted to give Cailin a wedding gift — $15,000 to cover catering costs.
‘I had to think about it,’ McDonnell said. Ultimately, he concluded that it was a gift to his daughter, so it was OK.
The check is one of the gifts prosecutors said the McDonnells received and failed to disclose.
According to previous testimony and evidence, Bob McDonnell had signed the catering contract and made two payments, and a refund check from the catering company was made out to Maureen McDonnell.
High life: Images show the gifts they allegedly enjoyed from Williams, including borrowing his Ferrari. The businessman claimed Maureen had asked him if they could use it as they stayed at his summer house
McDonnell also testified that he often heard Maureen McDonnell yelling at her assistants, usually over little things.
He told her she shouldn’t treat governor’s mansion employees so badly.
‘She would yell at me, say I was taking the staff’s side and I didn’t know what was going on over there,’ McDonnell said.
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.
McDonnell 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 escalated as his political career took off. Things got worse when the family moved from their longtime Virginia Beach home to Richmond after he became attorney general in 2006.