Longtime McDonnell staffer defends former boss on the stand - Tucson News Now

Longtime McDonnell staffer defends former boss on the stand

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File photo of former governor Bob McDonnell (Source: NBC12) File photo of former governor Bob McDonnell (Source: NBC12)

A different tone in the court room today as the defense began their case in the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen. Among those testifying today one of McDonnell's longest serving and closest aides.

As they took control of this case it's not a surprise that Bob McDonnell's legal team turned to his former Secretary of the Commonwealth, Janet Vestal Kelly. Kelly describe her former boss as an honest man who did his best to balance a difficult job with the crumbling marriage.

It is finally time for Bob McDonnell's side of the story.

"I think a lot of the truth has already come out," said the former Governor entering court. "But we are looking forward to being able to present our case."

And that case kicked off with Kelly- a woman who work for McDonnell and his wife long before he even became Attorney General.

Kelly said her old boss was incapable of compromising his office. She recalled a guiding theory of his interaction with donors.

"If you can't take someone's money and then go vote against them the next day, you shouldn't be in politics," she said.

But Kelly said the McDonnells were far from perfect.  She broke down on the stand at one point because she did not want to *pile on* Maureen McDonnell who she called:

"Difficult, demanding and diva-ish"

Kelly served as Secretary of the Commonwealth- a job where donors and friends often came looking for favors. She testified that the McDonnell's millionaire benefactor Jonnie Williams never got anything from her office.

But, prosecutors the pointed out that Kelly herself took a round-trip ride to a Mitt Romney event on Williams's private jet. She even told the businessman on that trip that the governor's office considered him a "BFD".  (translation can be found here)

When it was over Kelly reinforced her commitment to her old boss.

"I was happy to come in an testify on behalf of the governor," she said. "He is a good man. "

Kelly wasn't the only cabinet secretary who took the stand today. Several of McDonnell's former staffers testified about his time in office. One time Education Secretary Laura Fornash, former Commerce Secretary James Cheng and Finance Secretary Ric Brown, who is still in the job.

All three followed a similar pattern. They testified about their roles in the government and the purview the governor had to allocate benefits through their secretariat. All three testified that Jonnie Williams and Star Scientific never received any benefits through them.

A quick start for the defense as this case moves into a new phase.

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