Former Norfolk mayor testifies for defense in Burfoot corruption trial

paul-fraim

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Prosecutors on Tuesday rested their case against Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot, as the public corruption trial moved into its 10th day.

Several key witnesses have testified in the trial so far, including local builder Ronnie Boone, Sr. — who has already pleaded guilty to bribing city officials, including Burfoot — and NFL Hall of Famer and local developer Bruce Smith.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case following the testimony of Victoria Hammond, the longtime girlfriend and former assistant to Tommy Arney.

Arney, a bar owner and developer, testified in the trial Monday, claiming that he paid $25,000 for favors from then Vice Mayor Burfoot. Hammond testified Tuesday with the same story as Arney.

Defense attorneys for Burfoot began presenting their case to jurors Tuesday afternoon. Former Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim headlined some high profile witnesses testifying for the defense.

Fraim told the court he was very close to Anthony Burfoot on council. Burfoot’s attorney, Andrew Sacks, asked Fraim about the Broad Creek project.

“I don’t remember a lot of the Broad Creek project,” Fraim said. “I think for the most part, Broad Creek has been a success.”

Fraim said he never was approached by Burfoot for favors for Tivest Construction, Dwight Etheridge, Ronnie Boone or Tommy Arney.

Prosecutors asked Fraim about several instances where Burfoot was accused of taking gifts from Etheridge or Boone before votes that affected the two.

“I would have disclosed it,” Fraim said.

Federal attorneys asked Fraim if Burfoot should have abstained.

“I would agree,” he said.

Current Councilwoman Angela Williams Graves said she would see Burfoot and Etheridge together a lot. She even called them the “Bobbsey Twins.” Graves told the court after the Midtown Officer Tower project fell through, they were no longer seen together.

She, too, was never approached by Burfoot to do any favors for Tivest, Etheridge, Boone or Arney. The same goes for former councilman Andy Protogyrou.

Protogyrou says Burfoot was “obsessed” with Broad Creek. Burfoot worried about details such as brick and front door colors, mailboxes and landscaping. Prosecutors argued that shows Burfoot wanted Broad Creek his way and had full control over the project, including who developed it.

“I was surprised he was involved in the minutiae,” Protogyrou said. “I was surprised someone cared so much.”

Protogyrou went on to tell the jury a councilman could direct city staff to get something done.

“If you wanted something done, it would get done,” Protogyrou said.

Sacks said Monday he is not sure if Burfoot will testify.

“That is certainly an option,” Sacks said. “We will just have to see how things unfold.”