Burfoot: 'I'm not guilty'

13News Now Marcella Robertson has the story

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot took the stand in his own defense Thursday morning.

Burfoot told the jury he never accepted bribes from any developer or committed perjury. His attorney, Andrew Sacks, asked him why he pled not guilty back in January.

"Because I'm not guilty," said Burfoot.

Wednesday evening, Burfoot told the judge it was his decision to testify. "I made the decision I need to take the stand," he said.

Burfoot, 49, faces eight felony charges, including corruption and perjury. He is is accused of receiving at least $475,000 in bribes and kickbacks between 2005 and 2011. Prior to being the city treasurer, Burfoot served as Norfolk's vice mayor and was also a city councilman.

Burfoot began his testimony Thursday morning, and has been answering questions on the stand for nearly two hours. While testifying, Burfoot's attorney asked him if he ever solicited bribes from Tivest, Roonie Boone or Tommy Arney. Burfoot answered no. 

Burfoot also denied that anyone has ever paid him money secretly or that he was a partner in Tivest.

At one point, Burfoot became emotional when his attorney showed him a picture of what the housing projects used to look like in Broad Creek. He said he believed in making this better than other projects and wanted to build people up.

Burfoot was also questioned on whether he believed that it would make sense to build a strip club in Downtown Norfolk. Burfoot again said no.

On January 8, 2016, Burfoot was arrested and escorted to the Norfolk Federal Courthouse in downtown Norfolk. A 32-page indictment listed the charges against Burfoot, including perjury and wire fraud. Investigators say he used his official position to solicit gifts and payments.

Prosecutors argue Burfoot took bribes from the now non-existent company, Tivest Development and Construction.

In 2015, the Justice Department issued subpoenas into the Burfoot office’s dealings with the defunct development company. Tivest’s former vice president, Recardo Lewis, was sentenced in 2013 to 50 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud as part of the $71 million Bank of the Commonwealth fraud trial.

The charges also stem from Burfoot’s relationship with former Tivest president, Dwight Etheridge, who was sentenced to more than four years in prison on fraud-related charges. Etheridge was found guilty after a lengthy, 10-week jury trial on May 24, 2013.

Burfoot’s name came up during that trial, when another developer, Tommy Arney, testified that then-Vice Mayor Burfoot pledged city council votes to approved a downtown strip club.

Burfoot denied that allegation back then, telling 13News Now, “I’ve never had a conversation with Mr. Arney as it relates to that.”

According to a federal indictment, between March 2004 and December 2014, Ronald Boone, Anthony Burfoot and other individuals conspired with each other to scheme and defraud the citizens of Norfolk through bribery.

The indictment also states that Boone secretly provided cash, gifts, and other things of value to Anthony Burfoot in exchange for Burfoot to perform specific official actions and other official actions on an as-needed basis.

Burfoot's own trial began on Monday, November 7, and is expected to last several weeks. Burfoot’s attorney said at a motions hearing last month that he has more witnesses than normal in his defense.

Former developer Dwight Etheridge, who is currently serving a four-year prison sentence, testified against Burfoot, claiming he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash over the course of several years from Burfoot. 

Meanwhile, petition to recall Burfoot has been certified, but The Virginian-Pilot reports a recall trial has been delayed until after the criminal trial is complete.

If Burfoot is convicted of all charges, he could face up to 100 years in prison, although it is likely he would receive a lesser sentence.


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