NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — There’s a new push for clemency for a former state delegate locked up in prison on corruption charges.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is leading the charge, asking President Donald Trump to release former Virginia Delegate Phil Hamilton from prison. He is serving a nine year sentence for bribery and extortion.
The Hamilton supporters are watching a president who is starting to show leniency and mercy to others who are serving time for non-violent crimes.
It’s been a long walk for Meredith Archer, Hamilton’s daughter.
“I always think about him at Christmas time, on Christmas Eve because we have lots of Christmas traditions,” Archer said.
Archer sent 10 On Your Side pictures of the two sitting on a couch dressed in Christmas red and white.
“There is honestly never a time when he is far from my thoughts,” Archer said with tears welling and falling down her cheeks.
Hamilton has served 7 years of a 9 and 1/2 year sentence, and Archer hopes President Trump is convinced that’s enough time.
“I would like Mr. Trump to grant him clemency,” Archer said when asked what she wants from the president. “My dad has been a model inmate. He has taken classes. He has taught classes. He has endured things no inmate should have to endure,” Archer continued. She is referring to that terrible morning her father was attacked as he slept in December 24, 2016. He was attacked and hit with a padlock in a sock early in the morning.
“What purpose would the continued incarcerations of Philip Hamilton serve?” Andrew Shannon reads.
He is vice president with the Virginia States Unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
He was so moved by Hamilton’s continued incarceration, he wrote a letter to President Trump comparing Hamilton’s stiffer sentence to former Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot, who got a lighter sentence for what they consider greater bribery and corruption.
“Look, Hamilton was sentenced to 9 and a half years, Burfoot was sentenced to 6 years. Burfoot should have received more time. We believe this is wrong and we believe in redemption.”
Hamilton’s sentence followed his taking $80,000 to lead an ODU education program. He helped secure the funding through his position as an influential member of the House of Delegates.
The family points out that Hamilton worked for the money he earned, but the judge thought it was a classic case of quid-pro-quo (Latin for “this for that.”) Burfoot was found guilty of taking over $400,000 in bribery and corruption.
Shannon also hopes President Trump shows Hamilton the same leniency as he did for Alice Marie Johnson, who was set free after 21 years for non-violent crimes.
Shannon says, “President Trump knows that I am doing this as a civil rights advocate … he has been contacted, absolutely … I have received confirmation the letter we sent was received and we have people that are plugged into the administration, and they are reaching out to him on our behalf.”
Archer is still emotional thinking about her father’s best friend, former delegate Tom Gear, who died one week ago.
Gear emailed Hamilton every day, visited him twice in prison, and spoke out for Hamilton’s release.
“Tom was really somebody that didn’t just say he was there for my dad, he was there for my dad … he was a father figure I could go to. His just being there for me to listen to me. His death is very hard.”
Archer considers her father’s early release a long shot, but she’s hopeful he will live in a bedroom in her home.
“This will be where he stays, yes,” Archer said as she pointed out the room. “They will be the best days of my life … I think this will happen, but I prefer sooner rather than later.” Without President Trump, the soonest Hamilton can get out is June 27, 2019, and he will be on house arrest until December 27, 2019.