Va. Beach mayor finishes testifying in McDonnell trial

RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) — Virginia Beach Mayor William Sessoms testified again Wednesday morning in the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

Sessoms testified about McDonnell’s application to refinance a loan on one of the two beach rental properties that he and his sister own in Sandbridge. Mobo is an LLC involved with the two properties.

In federal court, the question came up as to whether a $50,000 loan from Jonnie Williams made out to MoBo LLC needed to be reported on Bob McDonnell’s personal financial statement to TowneBank. MoBo also got a second check for $20,000, and McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, got a $50,000 loan that was in her name.

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The defense argued because the $50,000 loan was a corporate debt that did not have a personal guarantee, it did not need to be on Bob McDonnell’s personal financial statement. Mrs. McDonnell’s loan did not need to be reported, the defense said, because Bob McDonnell’s name wasn’t on it.  

McDonnell’s attorney, John Brownlee, asked Sessoms, who is President of TowneBank Financial Services and approved the McDonnell’s original loans, “Is it the practice of the bank that loans to LLCs that do not have personal guarantees do not have to be included on personal financial statements?”

“Yes,” Sessoms said in reply.

Sessoms went onto to say McDonnell was not required to disclose the Williams’ loans because they were non-documented loans with no paperwork, were not personally guaranteed by McDonnell, and were basically “hand-shake” loans.

Prosecutors countered, hitting the point to jurors that McDonnell made a personal deal with Williams, but “no doc” loans hurt their argument.

However, Barbara Tierney, who worked as a senior credit analyst at TowneBank noted McDonnell listed nothing under “other loans payable,” “liabilities of proprietorships,” or “liabilities of partnerships/joint ventures.”

The argument is critical to the charges of wire fraud, where the government maintains the McDonnells lied to the banks to cover up the loans from Jonnie Williams, which is a crime .

The jury took it all in, and will have the final say on which side wins this important argument.

Leaving the courthouse after testifying, Sessoms said, “And now it’s up to the jury to make those decisions. I’m delighted this is over with and look forward to getting back to Virginia Beach, and I wish … all the best to Bob McDonnell.”

TowneBank isn’t the only bank not knowing about Jonnie Williams’ loans. Officials with Pentagon Federal Credit Union also testified. Nanette Bolt said the McDonnells refinanced four properties and failed to disclose the loans to her.

Once State Police Special Agent Charles Hagan questioned Maureen McDonnell about the Jonnie Williams loans, only then did Bob McDonnell send in revised financial statements to Bolt showing the Jonnie Williams’ loans to him, and the stock they owned in Williams’ company.

Bolt was asked to read aloud the financial statement Bob McDonnell first filed with the company that did not include the Williams’ loans. It read, “I/we understand it is a federal crime punishable by fine or imprisonment to knowingly make a false statement on this form.”

The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting dietary supplements made by his company.

McDonnell’s initial failure to disclose the Williams loans on bank paperwork is the basis for one of the counts.

Part of the McDonnell’s defense is their marriage was falling apart, they weren’t talking to each other, and therefore could not possibly conspire against Williams. In court Tuesday, it was revealed the McDonnells were talking enough to make more than 300 phone conversations between 2011 and 2013, during the same period of time of the loans and gifts from Williams.

The government will likely rest its case on Thursday, the jurors get a day off Friday, and Bob McDonnell begins his defense on Monday.

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