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Former Secretary of State testifies in Watkins fraud trial

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a jury Wednesday that she rejected a suggestion that she serve on the board of a company associated with two men on trial in an investment fraud case.

Donald V. Watkins Sr., of Atlanta, and Donald V. Watkins Jr., of Birmingham, each face multiple counts of wire and bank fraud and one count of conspiracy. Rice was the first witness called in the trial — in which each man is representing himself.

Prosecutors said Watkins Sr. told investors that Rice, an Alabama native, was considering investing in one of his companies, known as Masada. reports Rice met Watkins Sr. through friends who said she should look into Masada. Rice said she met twice in person and had two phone calls with him. But when he suggested she serve on Masada’s board of directors, Rice said she wasn’t interested.

“I told him at that time I was just out of government, and I was looking at a lot of different possibilities,” she said. “I (was) unlikely to join boards.”

Watkins Sr. then suggested a strategic advising position, Rice said. At one point he sent out a press release announcing her involvement.

Rice said she emailed Watkins Sr. and told him she was not in a position to accept the role.

“I couldn’t accept, and I couldn’t most certainly do a press release at that time,” she said.

Rice said she hadn’t showed the proposed agreement to her lawyer or financial adviser, and liked to take ample time to agree to business ventures. “I was just uncomfortable with the fact that this seemed so urgent,” she said. “I didn’t think I could meet Mr. Watkins’ time-frame.”

She also said she wanted no role when Watkins began talking about a venture involving purchase of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

“Please do not associate it with me in any way,” Rice told him via email.

Emails displayed in court show in March 2009, Watkins Sr. wrote to others about job assignments he had planned for Rice. Rice said she has no recollection of ever being told about the assignments and she never authorized him to share her name and possible involvement in talks with others.

Watkins Sr. asked Rice about their meeting at a Palo Alto, California restaurant. Watkins Sr. asked about the length of the meeting and if it lasted several hours. Rice replied, “Mr. Watkins I didn’t have two hours to spend with people at that time. Mr. Watkins, you were clearly recruiting me.”

After June of that year, Rice said she never talked to Watkins Sr. about Masada again.

Rice said she never met Watkins Jr. or directly communicated with him.

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