NFL legend Bruce Smith takes stand in Norfolk City Treasurer case

Posted at 11:51 AM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 22:05:37-05

NORFOLK, Va. – After a three day weekend the trial for the Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot continued Monday morning.

The jury heard from NFL legend Bruce Smith.  He took the stand for the defense.  He said he used to be friends with Burfoot years ago, but he is not friends any longer.

He said he told Curtis Etheridge, a developer to report an illegal behavior surrounding Burfoot to the authorities.

Smith was asked questions about a bid with the City of Norfolk he lost to the group Tivest.

Andrew Sacks, Burfoot's attorney maintains that he has nothing absolutely nothing wrong and they plan to support that with a "mountain of evidence."  Sacks said Smith's testimony did not have a negative impact and said his client is completely innocent.

Norfolk City Chief Deputy Treasurer of Real Estate Tax Wendy Petchell was asked about waving penalties fees for another developer at the instruction of Burfoot.  Sacks fought back saying it was a practice that his predecessor did and that Burfoot ultimately made the rules tougher for penalty fees.

Petchell was also asked about alleged trips she took to a beach house in the Outter Banks with Burfoot.

Monday morning started with the remaining cross examination of the prosecutions witness and Burfoot’s alleged business associate Dwight Etheridge.

Dwight Etheridge is currently in jail serving a sentence for bank fraud for a separate case but was called to testify Wednesday.

He told the jury that he worked with Burfoot for five years and would provide Burfoot with hundreds of thousand dollars, did renovations to his home, and paid for countless meals, entertainment and wine.

Dwight Etheridge would look at Burfoot and even point to him during his testimony.

He described himself as a "walking piggy bank" when it came to the City Treasurer's needs and wants.  He said in exchange Burfoot would support his business Tivest, a developing company  and vote in favor for projects they were involved in like the Broad Creek redevelopment and plans for the MidTown Office Tower.

Dwight Etheridge even said in 2010 he told Councilman Paul Riddick about the alleged bribes.  He said he told Riddick because he trusted him and said he never saw him take anything.  He said he felt relief when he expressed to another city leader what had allegedly been going on and thought Riddick would get the Mayor at the time, Paul Fraim involved and that Burfoot would be pulled aside.

Testimony indicated that Riddick allegedly told Dwight Etheridge not to pay Burfoot.

But Dwight Etheridge claims that no action was ever taken and he continued to allegedly pay Burfoot out of fear that he would lose the support that Burfoot was allegedly providing him.

He said Burfoot had impeccable taste on a "beer budget" and never wanted to pay for anything himself, but told the jury he was passionate about improving Broad Creek and the ward he was serving at the time.

News 3 reached out to Councilman Riddick about the alleged conversation in 2010, but we did not hear back from him.

Dwight Etheridge said the only city councilman he ever allegedly gave money to was Burfoot.

During cross examination Burfoot's defense attorney, Andrew Sacks fought back accusing Dwight Etheridge  of lying.

In court today Dwight Etheridge admitted to lying during his own bank fraud trial in 2013 and Sacks accused him of lying again today.  Sacks pointed out that it was the FBI who came to Dwight Etheridge first when information about an political corruption investigation into Burfoot in 2013, while Dwight Etheridge was locked up in West Virginia serving his over four year sentence.

"Unfortunately when people are in trouble themselves ...  they will do or say anything at times to get themselves out of it, so he (Burfoot) understands the motivation and incentives to say things that are not true, but it's tough.  He never thought in his wildest dreams that these people would turn on him like this for his own gain," said Sacks.

Wednesday, Dwight's brother Curtis Etheridge was on the stand talked about how he started Tivest. It was later run by his brother Dwight Etheridge .

Both brothers told the jurors they allegedly gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Burfoot.

He said in exchange Burfoot would "set the table" for them to get major development bids for projects within the city of Norfolk. Curtis Etheridge said making Burfoot happy was an investment for his company.

The brothers testified they would exchange money in upscale restaurants in the area and even at the Treasurer's Office.

Dwight Etheridge told the jurors that he knew it was wrong but continued to do it. He claimed at one point he allegedly told a councilman about giving Burfoot money, but he didn't disclose when that alleged conversation took place.

Dwight Etheridge said "Broad Creek was the golden egg" and that he wanted to keep Burfoot as happy as possible. He said he viewed the alleged money given to Burfoot as an investment and a "major opportunity to make money".

In court Sacks reviewed letters that prevented Curtis and Dwight Etheridge from getting into trouble with the federal government in exchange for his testimony about Burfoot.

"We feel strongly and confidently that we were able to expose that witness is lacking credibility, is not making sense, contradicting himself so we are very, very confident that the case is going exactly the way we hoped it would," said Sacks.

Wednesday he talked about Curtis Etheridge's previous criminal history and said if he lied to law enforcement in the past and said he could be lying during his testimony.

Sacks was also trying to poke holes in the idea that Burfoot was a partner in the group Tivest, a company that has since folded.

He said they have evidence that will be presented on Thursday that will make it clear that people who work for the city will explain what happened when projects were approved and decision were made.

"We have a lot of evidence that contradicts what Mr. Etheridge is saying today and I expect in cross-examination I'm going to expose some significant credibility issues about his truthfulness," said Sack of Dwight Etheridge.

The developers and businessmen who are accused of giving Burfoot kickbacks are Dwight Etheridge, Tommy Arney, and Ronnie Boone.

Prosecutors alleged Tuesday that another city councilman told Etheridge not to give Burfoot a dime in exchange for votes a few years ago. The prosecution said Tuesday that Etheridge did not listen and continued to give money to Burfoot.

The defense calls the accusations against Burfoot completely false.

Sacks said the three bank fraud criminals Etheridge, Arney and Boone made false accusations against Burfoot to law enforcement in exchange for getting their sentences reduced and avoid federal prosecution.

Amery was sentenced to 27 months in prison for bank fraud in 2013. Etheridge was sentenced to 4 years and 2 months in 2013. Boone plead guilty to bribery of city officials and bank fraud in September 2016 and is expected to be sentenced in January.

Burfoot is accused of not only using city funds for personal gain, but also of bribing developers and city business owners while he served as a city councilman, vice mayor and treasurer.

"I've never seen a man with more dignity and grace under the pressure. He is facing lie after lie but he is mature, professional and in control and he's patient and his faith in the system and he knows the truth will come out," said Sacks of his client.

On Monday during jury selection, jurors were asked if they could be fair and impartial and were asked if they knew anyone connected to the case, if they will suffer any hardships due to the anticipated length of the trial and if they have ever served on a jury which came to a verdict.

The judge also said that aspects of Burfoot's alleged extramarital affairs would be part of trial and asked the potential jurors if they could still be fair and impartial knowing that information.

The judge said the trial is expected to last a month, but said they would only be in court Monday through Thursday.

Dozens of people were issued subpoenas and many of them are high ranking officials.

The list includes former Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, Chief Deputy Treasurer Amy Ortega and Real Estate Tax staffer Wendy Petchl. Other Norfolk City Treasurer’s Office employees were also issued subpoenas.

Also on the list are Norfolk School Board Chairman Rodney Jordan and past and present Norfolk City Council members, including Vice Mayor Theresa Whibley, District 4's Paul Riddick, District 5's Thomas Smigiel and District 7's Angelia Williams Graves, Barclay Winn and Andrew Protogyrou.

Delegate Daun Sessoms Hester, Pastor Kim Brown, Norfolk City Manager Marcus Jones, former city employee Barbara Zoby, Clerk of Courts employee Crystal Porter, the Clerk of Circuit Court George Schaefer, City Attorney Bernard Pishko, Assistant Director in the Planning Commission Lenny Newcomb, Steve Morales, Keith McNair and Shurl Montgomery are on the list as well.

Federal prosecutors said he got work done to his home, a Mercedes, and got cash for the mother of his children, among other perks.

During a previous interview with News 3, Sack said his client is completely innocent.

“Anthony Burfoot has denied and will continue to deny that he received cash payments from anybody to cast a vote. It just didn't happen,” said Sacks.

Court documents outline how the federal government will call numerous witnesses who will detail their own corrupt dealings with Burfoot.

There will also be several women who say Burfoot brought them to a beach house that they thought was his, but in fact was owned by Boone, according to court records.

In the documents, federal prosecutors state they have video recordings of council meetings, along with bank, phone and other records as evidence for their case, including emails.

Court records indicate they’ll bring up Burfoot’s prior testimony during a case in 2013 to prove he lied under oath. Sacks told the jury Tuesday that Burfoot did not lie under oath.

“He is stunned by these accusations. He believes so strongly in his innocence he's baffled he doesn't understand it,” said Sacks.

The jury is made up of 10 women and 6 men who range in age.


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