By Gary Robertson
RICHMOND Va. (Reuters) - The youngest sister of former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell testified in his fraud and bribery trial on Tuesday that the governor's wife was "manipulative, unpredictable and can be deceptive."
Maureen C. McDonnell, testifying for the defense, reinforced a defense contention that her brother's marriage was crumbling and that he could not have conspired with his wife, also named Maureen, to take loans and gifts from a businessman in exchange for favors from the governor to help his company.
"I saw so many times that the communication was broken," the sister testified, adding that the governor's wife "would do things for her own benefit and not be truthful."
She also cited fits of screaming.
McDonnell and his wife face a 14-count indictment alleging they took gifts and loans totaling more than $165,000 from Jonnie Williams Sr., the head of dietary supplement company Star Scientific, in exchange for promoting his main product, the dietary supplement Anatabloc.
Under defense questioning for more than two hours, McDonnell's sister portrayed herself as being financially well off, with an income that topped $529,000 during 2012.
That was the same year that prosecutors say that Robert McDonnell and his wife sought loans of $70,000 from Williams to help support two ailing rental properties that the former governor and his sister owned in Virginia Beach, under the name of MoBo Realty.
The ex-governor's sister said she accepted the loans from Williams, rather than use her own money to finance rental shortfalls on the property, because it made "business sense."
For example, she said in the same month that Williams wrote a check for $50,000 to MoBo Realty, she received a $70,000 bonus from a former employer. She used the money to buy stock.
She and the former governor also borrowed $100,000 from their late father, and they borrowed $50,000 from a Virginia Beach physician.
McDonnell's sister, a former vice president of Amerigroup Inc, a healthcare company, attributed late mortgage payments on the properties to poor financial management for her former husband, Michael Uncapher, and not because she was unable to pay.
She acknowledged, however, that she and McDonnell had considered selling the Virginia Beach properties in 2009.
"We are in trouble and need to act NOW," she wrote in an email to her brother in December 2009.
Robert McDonnell, a Republican, ended his four-year term as Virginia's governor in January and was not eligible for re-election.
If he and his wife are convicted on all the charges against them, they could each spend up to two decades in prison.
(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by G Crosse and Frank McGurty)