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Virginia governor pitched health product, says corruption trial witness

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell gave a personal pitch to a state healthcare official for the dietary supplement at the heart of the former governor’s trial on corruption and bribery charges, the official testified on Monday.

Sara Wilson, director of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management, said McDonnell pulled out a bottle of the product, Anatabloc, at a meeting she and her boss had with him in March 2012 to discuss healthcare.

McDonnell, a Republican, "said how much it had helped him and his wife,” Wilson said under prosecution questioning on the 11th day of the federal trial.

"He wants us to meet with these people,” Wilson quoted her boss, Lisa Hicks-Thomas, the state administration secretary, as saying.

The governor’s alleged involvement through official acts of promoting Anatabloc is a key element of the prosecution’s case.

McDonnell and his wife Maureen face 14 counts of corruption and bribery in connection with allegedly accepting $165,000 in loans and gifts from Jonnie Williams Sr., the former chief executive officer of the company, now called Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals Inc, that makes Anatabloc.

Martin Kent, McDonnell’s former chief of staff, testified in U.S. District Court that the governor's use of Williams’ Ferrari hurt the feelings of state police guards.

In July 2011, McDonnell spent a weekend at Williams’ resort property in Virginia with his family and then drove the Ferrari back to the governor’s mansion in Richmond.

The governor breached a policy that required him and his wife to be driven by state police.

“It hurt morale ... I asked him not to do it again,” Kent said.

Kent also testified that handwritten notes that referred to a “50 K note” and a “loan of 50k shares to Maureen” appeared to be in the governor’s handwriting.

Prosecutors have said that Williams wrote a $50,000 loan to Maureen McDonnell, and later contemplated giving the couple shares of his company so that the governor could borrow another $50,000.

Attorneys for the couple have argued that accepting the gifts and money was unseemly but not illegal.

If convicted, the McDonnells could face more than 20 years in prison and a large fine. McDonnell's four-year term as governor ended in January.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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