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Posted at 3:07 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Former delegate pleads not guilty just a few blocks from General Assembly

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Former Virginia Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) pleaded not guilty to federal bribery and extortion charges in a Richmond courtroom Thursday.

Hamilton, who was one of the legislature's most powerful budget appropriators until he was defeated in 2009 after it emerged that he was under federal investigation, was arraigned before U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson just a few blocks from where his former colleagues are at work on day two of the annual legislative session.

The charges stem from allegations that he sought a job at Norfolk's Old Dominion University in exchange for obtaining state funding for the school. Authorities allege that Hamilton and ODU officials agreed in 2006 that Hamilton would be hired as director of the new Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership if he arranged for state funding to help launch the center, which trained urban school teachers.

They say Hamilton, 58, then tried to hide the relationship and asked an ODU official to falsely say that he was the center's director instead of Hamilton -- a year after Hamilton had been hired.

"Not guilty," he said in a strong and clear voice, almost before a clerk finished asking for his plea.

In the same powerful voice familiar to those who watched Hamilton during his 21 years in the General Assembly, he confirmed to Hudson that he is a U.S. citizen and holds a master's degree and 12 hours toward a doctoral degree.

Asked by Hudson whether he could read, write and understand the English language, Hamilton joked, "I hope so."

Hamilton's attorney, Andrew Sacks, has called the charges "utterly inconsistent" with Hamilton's character and promised he'll be exonerated during trial. Hamilton requested Thursday that his case be heard by a jury.

After a federal prosecutor indicated that the case will take about a week to present and Sacks said the defense will take three to four days, Hudson scheduled the trial for two weeks, beginning April 25 May 2.

A federal prosecutor indicated that two witnesses will probably have lengthy testimony to offer. The witnesses are most likely top administrators from the university. The charges carry a sentence of as much as 30 years in prison.

The prosecution also indicated that it will week $80,000 in restitution from Hamilton, the amount he received over two years of work for the university after it secured a $500,000 grant from the state.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | January 13, 2011; 3:07 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Rosalind Helderman  
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Come on. Be a man and take a plea. Why waste tax-payers money on a trial?

Posted by: jckdoors | January 13, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Reads like he's going for the full 30 years.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 13, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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