RICHMOND—— The prosecution offered closing arguments Tuesday in the federal bribery/extortion trial of Phil Hamilton, saying the evidence against the former state lawmaker "reeks" of wrongdoing.
Hamilton is accused of parlaying his legislative influence into a part-time $40,000-a-year job at Old Dominion University in 2006 and 2007. He resigned from the job two years later when media reports brought it to light. He later lost his reelection bid, ending a 21-year career in the House of Delegates.
Those show, without a doubt, that Hamilton sought funding to create a teacher training center at ODU while inquiring about a job at the center, Seidel said.
"The evidence reeks of solicitation," he said. "It's overwhelming."
Hamilton has long admitted to making a mistake in judgment – he apologized again Tuesday while on the witness stand – but denies any criminal intent.
Hamilton's attorney, Andrew Sacks of Norfolk, is scheduled to make his closing argument Wednesday morning. Then the case will go to the jury.
Sacks has argued that nowhere in the long list of emails does Hamilton ever threaten or coerce ODU.
Seidel said that's not necessary to prove corrupt intent. He focused the jury's attention on a series of email exchanges in December 2006, shortly before the 2007 legislative session where Hamilton pushed to fund the center.
"It's going to be very subtle," he said. "It's going to be implicit. A lot of winks. A lot of nods."
During an exchange with former ODU employee David Blackburn, Hamilton passes on information about the budget amendment he will sponsor on behalf of the center, and he also includes a specific salary request.
"There it is," Siedel said.
After getting the information from Hamilton, Blackburn replies: "I believe (the General Assembly) will fund and you will be on board."
Earlier in the day, the prosecution rested its case by attempting to show that Hamilton was reluctant to publicize emails that could be potentially damaging.
Hamilton did not release emails related to his job scandal despite being advised by two attorneys to conduct a broad search of his records in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, according to testimony.
It happened during the summer of 2009 as the controversy surfaced through media reports. Hamilton soon found himself facing requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
He first sought advice through the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council about an FOIA request from the Democratic Party of Virginia.
A staff attorney for the council suggested he turn over all material in any email account as long as it pertained to the transaction of public business.
Hamilton concluded that he should search his official legislative email account – which contained nothing of significance — but not his account at Newport News public schools, where he worked part-time.