Norfolk Treasurer Anthony Burfoot found guilty of public corruption

Norfolk Treasurer Anthony Burfoot on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, after a jury found him guilty of public corruption and perjury. Credit: WAVY-TV 10 Photo

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A jury found Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot guilty of public corruption charges Friday.

Burfoot was found guilty of six out of the eight charges he was facing, including conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, obtaining property under color of official right and two perjury charges.

The perjury charges stem from Burfoot’s testimony in the Bank of the Commonwealth trial, WAVY’s Jason Marks reports.

Burfoot was found not guilty on two other counts of perjury.

Defense attorney and former city councilman Andy Protogyrou explained what each charge means:

  • Honest services wire fraud — A cell phone or telephone was used to set up a meeting or deal to receive a bribe.
  • Obtain property under color of official right — Accepting any type of bribe.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander released a statement to 10 On Your Side after the guilty verdict came down, which says in full:

The judicial process has run its course and Mr. Burfoot had his right to a fair and open trial. This has been a taxing experience for Norfolk, but our city is resilient and our city council remains dedicated to restoring public trust and pursuing transparency. As he decides whether or not to appeal today’s verdict, I will continue to pray for him and his family.”

Andrew Sacks, Burfoot’s attorney, said they plan to appeal the conviction.

Who will be Norfolk’s treasurer following Burfoot’s guilty verdict?

Sacks also said he was “extremely disappointed with the speed at which the deliberation took.” The jury of eight women and four men – 10 white and two black – started deliberating Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. By 4:33 p.m., a verdict had been reached.

“If it had been considered thoroughly and carefully, I think we would have had a different result,” Sacks told reporters.

But one juror, Robert Millspaugh, told 10 On Your Side that evidence was reviewed carefully. He said the decision was among the most difficult he’s ever made.

“It’s painful, emotionally, because you sit there and you never want to find anyone guilty of anything,” said Millspaugh. “Everyone has their right to live their life, but when you add in actions that are not legal, that changes the whole dynamic.”

Protogyrou said of the verdict, “Devastating. It is devastating for Anthony. I know the jury did their job and they worked hard for it.”

Burfoot faces a max penalty of five to 20 years in prison, but Protogyrou believes he will likely serve about 12.

“He’s looking at, if it’s the honest services, which will carry the weight of the guidelines, you’re looking at 12.5 to 15.5 years,” Protogyrou told 10 On Your Side.

Burfoot is currently out on bond. Prosecutors asked that he be supervised while out on bond, and the judge accepted that. Burfoot is set to be sentenced on April 17, 2017.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday, following two hours of closing arguments — leaving the case in the hands of the jury.

During the trial, prosecutors tried to paint Burfoot as a man who took bribes for cash and gifts while he was on city council.

Prosecutors said in exchange for official acts, Burfoot would solicit money, car payments and home appliances from people who had matters before city council, including the managers of Tivest Development, Dwight and Curtis Etheridge, and local developer and restaurant owner Tommy Arney.

The defense fought back, saying several developers conspired against the city treasurer. In closing arguments, Sacks focused on the fact that key witnesses for the prosecution have felony convictions.

Special coverage: Burfoot corruption trial

Several high-profile witnesses testified for both the defense and prosecution during the trial, including NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, former longtime Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim and local developer Ronnie Boone, Sr.

In a surprising move Thursday, Burfoot’s longtime best friend Keith McNair took an immunity deal and testified as a witness for the prosecution. McNair refuted much of what Burfoot had testified to while on the stand.

“This case raises or falls on their credibility, and we believe there are simply so many problems that should create a reasonable doubt in a reasonable person’s mind,” Sacks said while addressing members of the media Thursday night. “We feel so strongly about this man [Burfoot] and his innocence.”

Stay with 10 On Your Side for continuing coverage of this developing story.