Witness testimony continues in Burfoot corruption trial

A courtroom sketch of Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot during his public corruption trial on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. Credit: Alba Bragoli

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Day three of the public corruption trial for Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot revolved around two brothers: Curtis and Dwight Etheridge.

Curtis Etheridge, the founder of Tivest, a construction company which was started around 2004.

Etheridge told the jury Wednesday he was approached by Burfoot around the same time frame with when the Burfoot worked on commission as an insurance agent. The two became good friends.

Etheridge says he decided to bring Burfoot into the company. Burfoot was running for city council and it was his job to line up projects that Tivest could bid on and turn for a profit.

The biggest project, or the “Golden Egg” as Etheridge explained, was the Board Creek development in Burfoot’s Ward.

Etheridge told the jury he started doing favors for Burfoot, like spending $30,000 to fix up Burfoot’s Norfolk home. Etheridge says he spent the money as investment, believing Burfoot’s insistence on council would return a profit for Tivest.

In November 2005, Etheridge was arrested in Chesapeake. He says that night, he and Burfoot were in club and were thrown out by the owner. Etheridge told the jury he was so mad, he called police and reported chaos inside the club.

Etheridge was charged with impersonating an officer and lying to police. He served 90 days in jail. He told the jury he fell on the sword for Burfoot and didn’t let police know the councilman was there too.

After Etheridge’s conviction, a newspaper article linked Burfoot to Etheridge. Soon after that, Tivest called a meeting at Etheridge’s home and Burfoot said he wanted to distance himself from the company.

Etheridge went on to tell the jury Burfoot wanted $250,000 for his part in the company, though Etheridge claims Burfoot never put in any money to the company from the start.

Curtis’ brother, Dwight decided to pay Burfoot the money and join the company.

Dwight Etheridge told the jury Burfoot said he would bring $600,000 in taxpayer money and Broad Creek as part of the deal. Etheridge says he knew what he was doing was illegal, but greed got in the way.

Etheridge continued saying over a five-year period, he made more than 70 cash payments to Burfoot.

Prosecutors showed the jury checks from 2009 in the amounts of $9,000, $10,000 and $20,000. Etheridge says Burfoot only wanted cash payments, because checks would be traceable.

“Burfoot accepted the money with joy,” Etheridge added.

Norfolk City Council did vote and gave the work on Broad Creek to Tivest.

Burfoot’s attorney Andrew Sacks called the credibility of Curtis Etheridge into question. Etheridge was given immunity from the federal government in exchange for his testimony.

Prosecutors begin calling witnesses in trial of Norfolk city treasurer

The trial continues Thursday. WAVY News 10’s Jason Marks will be there.