NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Former Virginia lawmaker, Phil Hamilton spent Thursday in federal custody as he prepared to face a judge. The former delegate from Newport News went to the FBI to answer to bribery and extortion charges.
Hamilton is accused of using his influence in the General Assembly to get government money for Old Dominion University, and a job for himself.
A federal magistrate judge read Phil Hamilton his rights. Hamilton said very little, answering just "yes" or "no" to questions.
His first appearance set the terms of his bond. He was released on $25,000 unsecured bond. He is not allowed to travel outside of Virginia without approval from a probabtion officer.
Judge Tommy Miller told Hamilton that while he is released, he is not allowed to have any contact with potential witnesses or victims in the bribery and extortion case against him.
That includes former high level officials at Old Dominion University who prosecutors say communicated with Hamilton about employment, in exchange for funding of a new teacher training center at ODU.
A day after the General Assembly session in February 2007, the indictment claims Hamilton sent an e-mail to one ODU official saying quote:
"Currently, my part-time salary with NNPS is around $37,000." "I need at least that amount from the ODU Foundation..." "Of course more is always appreciated."
Despite the questionable e-mails, Hamilton's defense attorney says his client is innocent.
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury indicted Hamilton and charged him with one count of federal program bribery and one count of extortion under color of official right.
According to the indictment, as Hamilton sat on powerful school committees in the General Assembly, he solicited employees of Old Dominion University for a position as director for the ODU Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership.
The indictment says ODU officials assured Hamilton that if he obtained funding from the General Assembly, he would get the job.
In June 2007, Hamilton and an ODU official signed an employee contract indicating, among other things, that Hamilton would direct the center and seek continual funding for the center. The contract also stated that Hamilton would be paid $40,000 per year. From approximately July 2007 through July 2009, Hamilton collected approximately $80,000 from ODU.
The indictment also alleges that Hamilton took numerous steps to conceal the arrangement, including: telling ODU officials not to mention his name in connection with the center to members of the Virginia Senate Finance Committee; allegedly advising an ODU official to tell a Virginia senate staffer that the official, and not Hamilton, was the director of the center; and, unsuccessfully attempting to persuade ODU leadership not to release incriminating e-mails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that ODU had received.
If convicted, Hamilton faces up to 10 years in prison on the bribery charge and up to 20 years on the extortion charge.
A company has been hired to complete the repairs to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks, but how long those repairs will take remains unknown.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.