Public corruption trial of Norfolk Treasurer Anthony Burfoot
to move forward
By Scott Daugherty, The Virginian-Pilot – 6/27/2016
The public corruption and perjury trial of Treasurer Anthony Burfoot can move forward in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction.
It is unclear what impact the high court’s decision will have on Burfoot’s case – which has been on hold since March.
While the decision made it harder for the government to prosecute public officials, some experts in criminal and appellate law said it doesn’t necessarily help Burfoot. One lawyer noted that the Supreme Court rejected a request by McDonnell’s legal team to void the entire law on the grounds it is too vague.
“It might actually strengthen the government’s case against Mr. Burfoot,” said Steve Emmert, an appellate lawyer based in Virginia Beach who publishes Virginia Appellate News and Analysis.
The McDonnell and Burfoot cases involve substantially different sets of facts, attorneys said.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in 2014 of doing favors for businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $177,000 in gifts and loans. The governor’s appeal hinged on whether those favors – which largely amounted to the lobbying of state officials and the hosting of a party – were “official acts.”
Burfoot, on the other hand, is charged with helping brothers Curtis and Dwight Etheridge and others in exchange for at least $475,000 in kickbacks and bribes. And unlike in the McDonnell case, prosecutors allege Burfoot cast votes or promised to cast votes for the men.
“If he actually cast votes in exchange for gifts, then there’s no question that the statutes apply,” Emmert said. “Actually voting is vastly different from facilitating a meeting with a government official.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa O’Boyle and Andrew Sacks, Burfoot’s attorney, declined to comment on the McDonnell decision.
No new hearings are scheduled in Burfoot’s case. The former vice mayor’s trial was originally set to start May 3 and take four weeks. It is now expected to happen happen later this year.
Scott Daugherty, 757-446-2343, firstname.lastname@example.org