For three years, residents in a secluded, leafy road in Goochland County near a famous golf course were mystified by the sudden appearance of State Police cars running up and down Hunting Ridge Road day and night.
Some knew that at the end of the road is the long winding driveway to the 28-acre estate owned by Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the kingpin of a controversy over gifts and loans that has drawn in top state officials including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli, who stayed at the Williams property with some of his aides when he was moving into his office in early 2010. McDonnell has said he and his wife have often had dinner with Williams.
With the drumbeat of news about Williams’ ties local residents started asking questions about why the State Police cars showed up and why they suddenly vanished a few months ago. Here’s my story in this week’s Style Weekly.
The State Police says that there were police cars there but they had nothing to do with providing security for Williams or anyone else. A State Trooper on duty in Henrico and Hanover Counties had stayed in a detached studio apartment on Williams’ property that includes a swimming pool, tennis court and baseball diamond. He left the apartment a few months ago (curiously close to the time Williams’ gifts to McDonnell were disclosed). A State Police spokeswoman says she doesn’t know if the trooper paid rent.
McDonnell and his wife have accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from Williams, including rides in his corporate jet, wedding luncheons, New York shopping sprees, a Rolex watch and others. Cuccinelli has accepted gifts as well and did not initially disclose stock he owned in Star Scientific, Williams’ firm.
Cuccinelli also spent a festive Thanksgiving at Williams’ Smith Mountain Lake vacation home. He has been cleared of wrongdoing by a local prosecutor but FBI and local probes of McDonnell and Williams continue.
On July 23, McDonnell publicly apologized for the more than $120,000 in loans he took from Williams and that he had repaid them. He didn’t mention the gifts. He’s not off the hook yet as far as the probes.
And that makes the presence of a State Trooper at Jonnie’s house all the more interesting.