Ronnie Boone expected to testify in Burfoot corruption trial

Ronnie Boone, Sr. arrives at the Norfolk federal courthouse on Wenesday, Nov. 16, 2016.  Boone was expected to testify in the public corruption trial of Anthony Burfoot. Credit: WAVY/Aaron Kurtz
Ronnie Boone, Sr. arrives at the Norfolk federal courthouse on Wenesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Boone was expected to testify in the public corruption trial of Anthony Burfoot. Credit: WAVY/Aaron Kurtz

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — More than 2,700 phone calls: That’s how many an FBI analyst says were made between Anthony Burfoot and Dwight Etheridge from 2007 though 2011.

Federal prosecutors went though a calendar and highlighted every vote Norfolk City Council made on either Broad Creek or the Midtown Officer Tower. Benjamin Fountain, an FBI phone analyst, says every time, there were calls between Burfoot and Etheridge before and after the votes.

Prosecutors also called Theresa Gills to the stand. Gills analyzes bank statements for the FBI. She looked at both Burfoot and Etheridge’s accounts.

“Etheridge had 19 accounts at different banks,” Gills said.

Burfoot had nine accounts.

Gills said from 2007 to 2011, Etheridge withdrew $1.3 million in cash and at the same time, Burfoot deposited $56,000 in cash.

Former employees of Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) told the jury they didn’t know how Tivest was awarded contracts.

Donna Seeland worked at the NRHA between 2002 and 2006. Seeland says Tivest was not a member of the Builders Design Guild, which was required for developers to get jobs. Several times, she turned down Tivest proposals only to have someone over her head give Tivest projects.

Janelle Morris was the last witness of the day. She worked with the NHRA from 2009 to 2013, but then moved to the Norfolk Treasurer’s Office after Burfoot got her the job.

Morris said Burfoot then nominated her for the Norfolk Public Library of Trustees, even though she had no library experience.

Morris told the jury she and Burfoot visited a hotel and beach house in the Outer Banks on a weekend trip. She went on to say that Burfoot told her he owned the hotel with a few other partners. Burfoot also told her he owned the beach house.

Morris testified that Burfoot came to her and told her the FBI might meet with her later. Morris told the jury Burfoot told her to delete all of her text messages, because they could be traced. FBI agents met with Morris to talk about Burfoot, but she admits she didn’t tell the truth. She says Burfoot told her to lie about certain topics, like the beach house, Tivest and their relationship.

A short time later, Morris says she was at work in the Norfolk Treasurer’s Office when she was handed a subpoena to testify in front of federal grand jury. She went on to say that Burfoot and McNair met with her in the vault to talk about testifying. Morris says they went to the vault because Burfoot told her he thought the FBI bugged the Norfolk Treasurer’s Office.

Morris said she lied to the grand jury about her involvement with Burfoot. Wednesday, she told the jury she was testifying and this time, it was the truth — to avoid perjury charges.

Ocean View businessman Ronnie Boone also made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday. His testimony is key for the prosecution. Boone pleaded guilty to bribing Burfoot and is testifying as part of a plea deal. He is expected to take the stand Thursday.

Testimony in the trial so far has included Norfolk councilman Paul Riddick, NFL Hall of Famer and local developer Bruce Smith and Dwight Etheridge, the co-owner of a construction company that has been implicated in Burfoot’s alleged corruption.