RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) - On Friday a federal judge sentenced former Virginia Delegate Phil Hamilton, who served Newport News for 21 years, to nine a half years in prison on extortion and bribery charges.
Choking back tears addressing U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, Hamilton said, "First I'd like to acknowledge my faith, my family and friends and hundreds of people who have contacted me for their moral support. This has sustained me during this difficult time in my life. Also, I am truly humbled by their testimony this morning."
U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said, "Phil Hamilton used his significant influence...to extort money for ODU and to get a job...we want legislators to go to Richmond to do the people's business, but not to line their pockets."
MacBride said this is the first time an elected official has been convicted of selling his position in exchange for his personal gain. However, the nine and a half years sentence is below what MacBride wanted.
Using an e-mail trail prosecutors showed Hamilton used his powerful position in the General Assembly to get $500,000 to establish a teacher quality and educational leadership center at ODU. Hamilton then went to ODU and got a part time job working with the center he created.
Hamilton was paid $40,000 a year to run the center.
A jury convicted Hamilton in May after it found this to be a criminal quid-pro-quo, which is Latin for 'this for that'.
Outside court Friday, Hamilton said, "obviously, I regret the whole thing. I wish it would never have happened."
Hamilton added, " I'd like to be remembered for the good things I've done. The things I've done for the mentally and physically challenged. The way I've added quality of education to Virginia."
Hamilton's lawyer, Andrew Sacks, reiterated in court Friday that he plans to appeal the convictions to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Phil Hamilton was not without friends in court. 20 sat in the courtroom to support Hamilton. Seven gave statements to Judge Hudson, including Newport News Councilwoman Dr. Patricia Woodbury.
Jane Hobbs who works with the mentally and physically challenged told the Judge, "He [Hamilton] was there the entire time. I knocked on his door. He was there. When we wanted to tell the General Assembly about people with disabilities, he listened to this."
Hamilton was once one of the most powerful leaders in Virginia.
Today, he works at Kiln Creek Golf Course for $10 an hour.
Golf Course owner Dick Ashe told an emotional story on the stand that made Hamilton and his family cry. Ashe said, "Phil doesn't have any money, so he eats hot dogs for his daily meal. Every day, he eats hot dogs, because he can't afford to buy anything more expensive."
Hamilton must turn himself in to begin his sentence September 19.
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