Fate of Norfolk Treasurer Now in Hands of a Jury

By JOCELYN RARDIN

(CN) – A jury of eight women and four men deliberated the fate of Norfolk, Virginia City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot on Friday, a day after prosecutors wrapped up their corruption case against him.

Burfoot is accused of soliciting nearly $500,000 in bribes and gifts from local developers in exchange for promises he would help advance their projects before the city council.

He insisted he is innocent of the charges and his defense attorney, Andrew Sacks, spent much of the five-week trial trying to impeach the credibility of key prosecution witnesses who have felony convictions.

The last day of the trial included a surprise twist — Burfoot’s purported best friend, Keith McNair, taking an immunity deal and testifying as a witness for the prosecution.

Burfoot, 49, faces eight felony charges of corruption and perjury.  If convicted of all of them, he could face up to 100 years in prison.

During his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye told the jury that “public service is an honor” and that public servants “have an oath to always act for the people.”

However, he said,  Burfoot was not acting for the people, but himself by allowing his decisions to be bought and sold.

“There is no doubt that Mr. Burfoot sold his vote,” Asonye said.

Burfoot’s financial competency also into question on Thursday when Asonye reminded the jury of Burfoot’s own testimony that he saved thousands of dollars for his children’s education in a shoe box in his home over the years instead of making deposits in an interest-bearing savings account. Burfoot’s bank records show that he deposited $56,000 in cash between 2007 and 2011, despite his claiming on tax returns that his only income was coming from the city, and his acknowledgement that he used direct deposit for his paychecks.

Asonye asked the jury, “When was the last time you deposited $20,000 in one year?  Isn’t it curious that deposits plummeted when the corrupt actions stopped?”

Asonye wrapped his up his closing argument by talking about the 18 City Council votes Burfoot made that were allegedly influenced by gifts from the developers and businessmen.

“The evidence in this case is overwhelming,” Asonye said.

Defense attorney Andrew Sacks used his allotted two-and-a-half hours attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses, some of whom were previously convicted on corruption charges.

“The prosecution had five convicted felons as witnesses. The defense had over 56 witnesses with zero convictions,” Sacks said.

He argued the prosecution’s case was based on “theory,” and that many of their witnesses were proven liars merely continuing to lie to fit the government’s version of the truth and reduce their sentences.

“It’s like a virus and it’s spreading” Sacks said.  “There’s only one way to stop it and that’s in the jury box.”

Sacks pleaded with the jury to examine the validity of the prosecution’s case by questioning discrepancies in its case — like the fact that Burfoot had Tivest invoices for some of the work allegedly performed on his home to curry his favor.

“The truth is out there,” Sacks said.  “We went out and brought it to you.”

Sacks urged the jury to continue their due diligence when deliberating, saying it was one of the most important decisions of their lives, as well as Burfoot’s.

“This may be the one time in your lives where you cast a single vote that can make a difference,” Sacks said.  “I ask you to make the just vote, not guilty.”

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