NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in an arraignment hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Burfoot is out on bond at the moment, after he was served eight federal indictments for public corruption. He also requested a jury trial at Wednesday’s hearing.
Burfoot’s attorney Andrew Sacks has also asked the judge to change the conditions of his bond. Right now, Burfoot cannot have contact with any potential witnesses or victims.
Both sides initially agreed that Burfoot should have contact, as long as communication does not deal with the case. However, Sacks tells 10 On Your Side the order came back not quite stating that.
He added that some of the people in question are Burfoot’s family and people with whom he normally interacts.
The trial for this case has been set for May 3.
The FBI began looking into Burfoot early last year. According to a 30-page indictment unsealed two weeks ago, prosecutors alleged that Burfoot was part of a scheme to defraud the city.
The indictment says that from 2005 to 2011, Burfoot and conspirators used his job as city councilman, vice mayor, and chief deputy treasurer to enrich himself, and that he performed official actions to benefit people who gave him money and gifts. Prosecutors say Burfoot became a silent partner in a company called Tivest Development and Construction and that he promised other partners he would use his position to help direct city projects to Tivest.
“This is a false accusation,” Sacks said earlier this month. “It appears that people that do not have Anthony Burfoot’s best interest at heart have said things that are not true.”
Federal investigators say he used his power as vice mayor and city treasurer in exchange for money and gifts. Prosecutors also say he lied under oath about the investigation.
“He is presumed to be innocent,” Sacks said. “He’s not been convicted of anything. These are just paper accusations.”
If convicted, Burfoot could face anywhere from 5 to 20 years in prison.
There have been rumors of this day for weeks. Norfolk City Council members are sad it ended like this.
“I’m shocked and disappointed,” said Norfolk Vice Mayor Angelia Williams Graves. “I did not expect anything like this. Anthony has always brought great ideas to the council, been very passionate about his work and his ward so I’m really taken back.”
“It upsets me and it angers me,” added Norfolk City Councilman Andrew Protogyrou. “It’s unfortunate, but we have to continue to let the people know that those of us that are in office have worked very hard to continue to maintain that trust.”
Sacks has expressed that they are prepared to fight the charges and they would not consider a plea deal. He said Burfoot had no plans to step down as Treasurer and has been to work every day since his indictment.
Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe has called for Burfoot to take a leave of absence, and in a previous release said: “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, due to the serious charges of using his office for personal gain, there is a loss of public trust and confidence in Mr. Burfoot to oversee the tax collections of individuals and businesses in the City of Norfolk.”
“It’s been very disappointing to him and to me that people who should know better, the top elected law enforcement official in the city, the sheriff, he knows what the presumption of innocence is. He knows that Mr. Burfoot hasn’t been convicted of anything…Why should the sheriff call for him to step aside when he hasn’t even had his day in court yet, unless he wants to make political hay out of it? That’s what this is all about: politics, not justice ,” Sacks said Wednesday.
In response, Sheriff McCabe provided this statement to WAVY News:
“I’m going to allow the serious federal criminal charges to speak for themselves. I still believe he should step down until the charges are adjudicated. However, I am not involved in a recall effort of Burfoot. That is up to the citizens of Norfolk.”