NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The recall trial to oust City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot may not happen until next year; but he may end up out of office before then depending on what happens in his corruption trial in November.
Burfoot is charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks and bribes. However, the petition trial to remove Burfoot from office could be moot. If Burfoot is found not guilty how can you then throw him out of office? If he is found guilty of felonies he would be forced to leave office anyway, and could be incarcerated during his certain appeal.
“We always felt this petition drive was premature to go before the federal trial,” Burfoot’s attorney Andrew Sacks says.
Sacks won that battle during Thursday’s pre-trial conference for the petition recall trial; that’s a removal from office trial must come after the federal corruption trial.
“If there is going to be a petition trial, that should come after the criminal trial and we are satisfied with that. We believe that is justified for everybody,” Sacks says.
Sacks argued the petition recall is based on allegations in the federal indictment. He feels it is not fair to put Burfoot in jeopardy of his job based on a case that has yet to be tried.
The other part of the story is that for the first time the prosecutor thinks Burfoot tried to get a witness to lie. A judge agreed to let the petition removal from office trial go forward.
“Mr. Burfoot is certainly disappointed that people have seen fit to say things that are not true. But at the same time he is anxious to meet those accusations, and knock them down and defeat them in court,” Sacks adds.
In court documents 10 On Your Side obtained, Special Prosecutor Michael Herring, who is the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney, wrote that Burfoot,
“Has used his power and office as the Treasurer to influence a witness in the investigation and prosecution against him to be dishonest about information given to authorities in the federal litigation.”
Herring is saying he thinks Burfoot has lied and the case should go forward, the special civil judge agreed.
Sacks response to that, “We have faith in the system and the process. We believe at the end of the day he will be acquitted. He will deserve the banner headlines of his acquittal as much as he has gotten the headlines of his indictment.”
Citizens Recall Committee Organizer John Wesley Hill is not happy with the court’s decision to put off the recall trial. 10 On Your Side contacted Hill by phone who was a petition organizer, he says;
“We understand what Herring said, his policy and what he believes as an attorney and the arguments of the two attorneys. But we were concerned about Burfoot’s behavior in office, and we are disappointed. We respect the court, we are disappointed with the delay. This indictment started January of this year, and this is the eight month, and we’re talking about a Burfoot trial in November, and that’s almost a year.”
“We’re trying to let the system work, but as far as we are concerned the judicial system has let us down. The citizens of the Commonwealth have spoken that we would like for him to be recalled, and that’s disappointing that we are still in a delay mode. We expect him to be found guilty.”
Burfoot’s criminal trial is set to start November 7 and go until about December 9.