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RICHMOND, Va. — The key prosecution witness in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, took the stand Wednesday, saying there was no personal relationship between he and the couple.

Jonnie Williams, the wealthy businessman and former chief executive of Star Scientific, said he did not give the two initial checks to the McDonnell family because he thought he and the McDonnells were friends.

"This was a business relationship," he said about why he helped the McDonnell family. "I needed his help."

The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in loans, designer clothes, vacations and a Rolex watch from Williams. Prosecutors say that in exchange, they helped to promote Williams' business. If convicted, they could face decades in prison.

Williams, the government's star witness, received immunity from prosecution to testify against the McDonnells. The trial, which ended Wednesday on Williams' testimony, will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Williams talked about the first time he flew the McDonnells on his plane to California in October 2010. He said he took a commercial flight and intercepted the plane to be able to fly back to Richmond with the couple.

"I figure that would give me five or six hours with the governor. ... I could explain to him what I'd discovered in Virginia. ... I could explain I needed his help."

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Williams wanted to talk about the anatabine compound he found in the tobacco plant and how he thought it would help decrease health care costs. He asked the former governor to "connect him with a person in his administration who could help me move things along." That person was Dr. Bill Hazel, who became the secretary of Health and Human Resources for Virginia in 2010.

Originally Williams meant to help Maureen McDonnell find a dress for the governor's inauguration. An attorney from the governors office, Jonathan Eige, called him and said "I'm calling to let you know you can't do that."

Maureen McDonnell was not happy and said she would "take a rain check."

In April 2011 Maureen McDonnell contacts Williams to finally go on a shopping trip in New York. Williams testified he spent $20,000 on her that day and that evening he got to sit next to the governor and his wife at an event.

He said the shopping trip "went on for hours."

Williams testified that in May 2011, Maureen McDonnell asked Williams to meet with her. She told him about her family's financial troubles. She said she had a background in nutritional supplements and that the governor said she could help Williams and his company but she also needed his financial help.

She needed money to pay off a balance on her daughter Cailin's wedding, $15,000, and a $50,000 loan.

"She said she would help me," Williams said "and I said OK I'll do it.

"The only thing I cared to do was I needed to make sure her husband knew about it."

Prior to Williams taking the stand, the testimony focused on the gifts the McDonnell's received from Williams.

Jerri Fulkerson, executive assistant to Williams, detailed the loans — $120,000 in total — and all of the gifts Williams gave to the McDonnells.

She testified that the McDonnells' daughter Jeanine received $10,000 for her wedding gift and first class plane tickets for herself and a friend, plus a posh stay at a Florida Ritz-Carlton and use of Williams' Range Rover.

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The McDonnells — who previously had presented a united front during Bob McDonnell's gubernatorial campaign beginning in June 2007, while he was governor for four years and during proceedings this year leading up to the federal corruption trial — signaled a change of heart as jury selection began Monday when they arrived and left the courthouse here separately and sat separately surrounded by separate teams of lawyers.

During opening statements Tuesday, their lawyers revealed that the couple's 38-year marriage was broken and that Virginia's former first lady had a crush on Williams. Williams appeared to encourage that friendship, exchanging more than 1,200 calls and text messages with Maureen McDonnell starting when Bob McDonnell took office in January 2010.

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Neither Maureen McDonnell's nor Bob McDonnell's lawyers said she had had an affair but her lawyer did call the relationship inappropriate.

Fulkerson's testimony also revealed that other politicians used Williams' plane for free, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Sen. John McCain, all Republicans. She said that Cuccinelli's mother-in-law also received free Antabloc from Williams.

Bobby McDonnell, the couple's son, testified Wednesday that he developed a "mentor/mentee" relationship with Williams.

"He took me under his wing and taught me about business," said Bobby McDonnell.

Bobby McDonnell, now at business school at Duke, said his interest in business made him fond of Williams whom he thought was a "successful businessman."

He said that in addition to gifts, Williams also offered Bobby McDonnell an internship. He said he declined the internship based on his father's advice.

Williams, 59, made his initial fortune in founding several biotech start-ups in the 1980s. By the time the McDonnells met him in 2009, he had all of the trappings of wealth: a private jet that he loaned to the McDonnell campaign at least four times; a spacious vacation home on Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke, Va.; luxury cars including a Ferrari.

In 2012, Forbes magazine said Williams was paid almost $1.2 million to head Star Scientific. In contrast, the salary of Virginia's governor in 2010 was $175,000, among the top 10 governors' salaries nationwide but lower than Williams' compensation by a factor of seven.

At the end of 2013, amid a securities probe, shareholder lawsuits and a glaring spotlight from his dealings with Bob McDonnell and his wife, he resigned from the public company. In June, it became Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: RCPI) and moved to Sarasota, Fla.

Until the gifts from Williams became public, Bob McDonnell, 60, was considered a rising star in the national Republican Party.

In his one term as Virginia's governor — Virginia allows its governors to serve only one four-year term consecutively — he had also been named chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Before that, he was the commonwealth's attorney general and had been a member of the state House of Delegates since 1992.

In his entire 22-year political career, he always has been identified with conservative issues. He received his law degree from Christian Broadcasting Network University, now Regent University, in 1989.

Contributing: Paulina Firozi, USA TODAY. Ochsner also reports for WVEC-TV, Hampton-Norfolk, Va.; Fox also reports for WUSA-TV, Washington, D.C.

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