Va. Beach mayor to testify at McDonnell trial

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Although the star witness in the corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife has been businessman Jonnie Williams, the list of names still to take the stand is long. Among others, it includes former State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms.

Sessoms spoke only to 10 On Your Side about about the trial and why he was served a subpoena.

The main thrust of the 14 count indictment against the McDonnells deals with corruption, which is using the office to gain favor in exchange for access, gifts, and loans. That could be shades of gray. The other big part deals with wire fraud, which is much more black and white: did you properly report the loans or didn’t you?

“All I can do is tell the truth, and that’s what I will do, and I hope the truth doesn’t hurt him,” Mayor Sessoms told WAVY.com.

Sessoms will go to Richmond to tell what he knows about Bob McDonnell, loans, and what is or is not properly reported.

“They will ask me questions pertaining to loans that I made to the Governor a number of years ago for his properties located in Sandbridge,” Sessoms said.

In 2005 and 2006 Sessoms, who is an officer at TowneBank, approved loans for the McDonnells.

“Every year, you are required to furnish an updated financial statement, which gives your current assets and liabilities and income,” Sessoms said.

However, according to the 14 count federal indictment on October 3, 2012, McDonnell “caused TowneBank to receive a personal financial statement that listed … no other loans payable … The financial statement did not list any of the loans from [Jonnie Williams].”

WAVY.com asked Sessoms about that: “My gut would say that is probably a concern the U.S. Attorney will ask, and I will look at the statement that is presented to me, and say is [the reported loan] there, or is it not there.”

If it is not there, the McDonnells could be found guilty of felony wire fraud.

“Then the question that would be asked — is there a personal guarantee [of the loan], if there is a personal guarantee, then [the reported loan] should be there,” Sesoms said. “And if there isn’t a personal guarantee, then it is not required.”

Sessoms would not discuss details of the loans.

The McDonnells were also indicted for failing to list loans as part of efforts to refinance four loans, including Towne Bank’s with Pentagon (PenFed) Credit Union. The indictment reads: “listed no loans from or liabilities to [Jonnie Williams.]” It also did not “list any Star Scientific securities held by the defendants as assets.”

However, it is clear in the indictment that after Maureen McDonnell was interviewed by law enforcement officers that the curtain started coming down on the McDonnells.

“MAUREEN MCDONNELL was interviewed by law enforcement officers regarding the $50,000 and $15,000 checks from [Jonnie Williams] in May 2011. Although MAUREEN MCDONNELL stated that the $50,000 check was a personal loan from JW and that she had asked JW for the loan to help with the defendants’ expenses and cash flow, she falsely claimed that there was a loan agreement that she had signed and that she was making periodic payments on the $50,000 loan.”

That appears to be when the McDonnells started trying to set the record straight. The Indictment reads:

On or about February 18, 2013, three days after MAUREEN MCDONNELL was interviewed by law enforcement, ROBERT MCDONNELL sent a five-page fax to a loan officer at PenFed. On the first-page cover sheet, ROBERT MCDONNELL wrote, ‘I reviewed the general loan application again this weekend and made some updates concerning information that was incomplete.’

The remaining four pages of the fax included handwritten changes by ROBERT MCDONNELL to the Uniform Residential Loan Application that had been originally signed by both defendants and sent to PenFed on or about February 1,2013. The original loan application submitted by the defendants to PenFed did not include any reference to liabilities resulting from the $120,000 in loans from JW (Jonnie Williams). ROBERT MCDONNELL’S handwritten changes on or about February 18, 2013 listed $50,000 of liabilities to JW and $70,000 of liabilities to Starwood Trust, which was the entity through which JW had funded the loans to the defendants.

ROBERT MCDONNELL further stated in his handwritten changes that payments due on the loans were zero and that the loans were unsecured. ROBERT MCDONNELL’S handwritten changes on February 18,2013, also listed 1,672 shares of Star Scientific stock with a value of $3,143 in the assets portion of the loan application.

In or about March 2013, MAUREEN MCDONNELL met with JW’s brother at the defendants’ residence and told JW’s brother that she had been interviewed by law enforcement. At that meeting, MAUREEN MCDONNELL, for the first time, asked JW’s brother to send her a bill for the work JW’s brother had performed for the defendants since approximately November 2012. Thereafter, on or about March 4,2013, JW’s brother sent an email to MAUREEN MCDONNELL stating “Find attached a list of expenditures for your residence.

Maureen McDonnell then gave William’s brother a box and letter. The indictment reads:

MAUREEN MCDONNELL asked JW’s brother to give it to JW for her, and JW’s brother caused it to be delivered to JW’s house. The box included some of the clothing JW had purchased for MAUREEN MCDONNELL in April 2011, and it included a handwritten note from MAUREEN MCDONNELL to JW and his wife stating:

“I can’t begin to thank you how special you made me feel on [CM's] wedding day and on our 35th Wedding Anniversary Day all dressed up in the beautiful outfits you adorned me in on both momentous occasions. I’m so happy we’ve been able to share so many significant milestones in our lives with you both! I truly hope your daughter  will now be  able to enjoy these lovely outfits and show them off on many grand occasions. If not, I’m sure there are many exemplary charitable organizations like we talked about who would welcome the opportunity to auction them for a wonderful cause having been worn only once by the First Lady of Virginia to her daughter’s Wedding at the Executive Mansion and celebrating her 35th Wedding Anniversary with the Governor. Actually, if that happens I think I’ll be there to bid on  them myself! Please know that we cherish our  friendship with you and look forward to many more wonderful memories together ahead! XOXO! Maureen McDonnell”

Williams mentioned on the stand his amazement when he read “like we talked about.” Williams testified he never spoke about this with Maureen McDonnell, that she was always to keep the dresses as a gift from him.

“If [Bob McDonnell] did not put on his personal financial statement what is required by law then he’s got a problem, but I am not aware of that occurring at this point … my biggest concern is having to go [to Richmond,] because I don’t want to go there,” Sessoms added.

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