NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Ronnie Boone pleading guilty in federal court to bribing Anthony Burfoot does not look good for the Norfolk city treasurer, who is already facing federal corruption charges.
Burfoot, former vice mayor, is accused of taking $475,000 in kickbacks and bribes dating back to his time as a councilman. He served on council for more than a decade before being elected city treasurer in 2013.
A local community action group presented a petition for his recall from office this summer. Last month, a judge ordered that trial be pushed back until after his federal criminal trial. On Friday, 10 On Your Side spoke with John Hill, the man who led that recall charge.
“We can’t understand why he is still in office,” Hill said. “Seemingly the wheels of the justice department is in slow motion when it comes to getting Mr. Burfoot out of office.”
Hill went on to say that some Norfolk citizens have talked about a tax revolt — that is, putting their taxes in escrow until Burfoot is out of office.
Respected local attorney Sonny Stallings advised against that. WAVY.com spoke with Stallings to get some objective legal perspective on what Friday’s federal proceedings could mean for Burfoot.
“It’s not good for Mr. Burfoot because clearly, Mr. Boone is going to be a witness against him,” Stallings said. “Mr. Boone has made his peace with the federal government… and whatever he has to say will be evidence against Mr. Burfoot.”
Stallings said he does not believe Friday’s developments will have any impact on the recall trial.
Anthony Burfoot’s attorney Andrew Sacks essentially said that Ronnie Boone is a liar who will do anything to save his own skin.
“He is looking at 30 years on the bank fraud charges, and he suddenly says he is on the take with Anthony Burfoot. That is absolutely a false, convenient lie. It was made up to help himself, and trying to curry favor with prosecutors with the government,” Sacks said.
Boone says Burfoot provided official acts to help Boone on an as-needed basis to which Sacks says, “absolutely false, absolutely untrue, this is complete fiction.”
In the plea agreement, Boone says in exchange for access to Burfoot, he gave Burfoot gifts and cash and loans
“Anthony hasn’t taken anything of value from anybody, including Ronnie Boone, for any official actions,” Sacks countered.
Sacks claims Boone is a desperate man trying to get preferred treatment from federal prosecutors helping in their case against Burfoot.
Part of Boone’s narrative says he gave his beach house to Burfoot because Burfoot wanted it in exchange for favors. Sacks acknowledges Burfoot did visit the Boone Kitty Hawk beach house.
“Anthony visited his beach house, but it had nothing to do with any promise to exchange anything for that. That is absurd,” Sacks said.
It appears when 10 On Your Side was reporting about Boone’s guilty plea, no one seemed more surprised than Sacks and Burfoot.
“Until today, we had no idea, no suggestion, no hint that Ronnie Boone had anything to do with Anthony Burfoot in terms of these allegations.”
It is clear that Boone will be another witness called against Burfoot in Burfoot’s corruption trial. Sacks also says Boone’s apparent cooperation could be a blessing in disguise.
“It is almost beneficial to have further proof that people who have to fabricate a motive to help themselves, and then they jump in on this case and use Anthony as a scapegoat.”
Boone says he asked Burfoot for his support on a project, and Boone claims Burfoot demanded thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for the “official” help. Boone says he paid between $5,000 and $10,000 prior to the vote.
“Anthony Burfoot has denied he received cash payments from anybody to cast a vote. It just didn’t’ happen,” Sacks stated during a Friday afternoon news conference with reporters.
Sacks expects Boone, along with two others, to be the main witnesses against Burfoot.
“These are no Boy Scouts or choir boys or priests who are making these accusations. They are convicted felons, convicted fraudsters, people who have a track record of lying or deceiving.”
Sacks says he may ask for a continuance due to this new twist in the case. The trial is set for November. Boone is to be sentenced in January, after whatever testimony he may provide in the Burfoot trial.