PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- Portsmouth City Councilman Mark Whitaker was inside a courtroom Monday for a hearing in the forgery and fraud case against him.
This was the first hearing where Councilman Whitaker joined his attorney in his defense.
13News Now was the only TV station with cameras at the courthouse.
“We appreciate all the support, all of the calls and prayers we're getting from around the country and around the region,” Councilman Whitaker told us.
Inside the courtroom, cameras were also the focus. Monday, a judge ruled the sitting councilman and his legal team will not be able to look at surveillance footage they had requested to review as part of their defense.
Councilman Whitaker's attorney, Don Scott, alleged that video could show inappropriate contact between the special grand jurors, who indicted Whitaker, and those involved in the investigation and prosecution of him.
Prosecutors argue that video is in the possession of the Portsmouth Sheriff's Office, which is a party to the case. It is one of the agencies that investigated Councilman Whitaker and the finances and activities of his church, development company and federal credit union.
Judge W.C. Andrews, who was brought in specifically to hear this case, ruled the "statute is clear," because the sheriff's office is party to the case, it doesn't have to give up the video.
The defense had also wanted to see notes investigators took during the special grand jury process. Judge Andrews also ruled those are not considered evidence, so neither side should be able to review them.
At one point Scott brought up the politics of this situation, saying this is an elected sheriff bringing a case against an elected councilman. The judge stopped him. Andrews said he's not here to decide a political matter, but only matters of law.
As he has done in other hearings, Scott attacked the investigative and special grand jury process that culminated in these indictments.
On his way out of court, we asked Whitaker if he thinks everything has been fair so far.
“We appreciate all the support that we've been receiving,” he responded.
Right now, the case is set to go to trial in November.
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