NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — This week, the defense for the former Norfolk sheriff, who’s accused of taking bribes in connection with jail contracts, is laying out its side of the case.
Mccabe faces 11 charges for allegedly helping two companies secure multi-million-dollar contracts with the jail.
On Wednesday, McCabe took the stand in his own defense.
McCabe spent hours talking about his career in office.
“Sitting here for the last two weeks, I just needed to let the jury know that I’ve never taken a bribe in my life,” McCabe said. “I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve never taken a bribe.”
McCabe is accused of taking gifts and campaign donations from two jail vendors. Prosecutors say in return, he tipped them off on competing bids for contracts.
The former sheriff told the jury about where he grew up, his time in the U.S. Navy and why he became a Norfolk police officer.
“I just wanted to be able to help people,” McCabe added. I wanted to make a difference.”
In 1993, McCabe ran for Norfolk sheriff and won. He says he decided to run because of a rash of inmate deaths.
By the time McCabe got into the jail in January 1994, the Department of Justice was already investigating the conditions of the jail.
“I let the media come in for the first time in 12 years,” McCabe said. “I wanted everyone to see the conditions firsthand.”
The first thing McCabe had to change was the jail’s food service. ABL was brought in overhaul the facility’s kitchen. Inmates didn’t take kindly to the change, causing a riot later that year.
“It was like a partnership,” McCabe said of ABL and its president, John Appleton. “We became friends. It molded into a personal friendship. He was like me: Work hard, play hard.”
The next year, the jail’s food contract came up to bid. Last week, Appleton testified that McCabe gave him information on a competing bid. It’s a claim McCabe said never happened.
“That company wasn’t going anywhere,” McCabe added. “We were making progress, but we were still in crisis.”
McCabe told the jury that ABL was performing at a high level.
BELOW: Watch more on Wednesday’s developments.
“Are you a crook?” McCabe’s defense attorney James Broccoletti asked.
“No sir,” he answered.
“Did you make mistakes?” Broccoletti asked.
“I’ve made my share of mistakes,” McCabe answered.
McCabe denied all of the accusations about him giving vendors bids throughout his five-hour testimony. He told the jury that much of what they heard never happened.
He did admit to asking his friend James Baylor to pass a $12,500 check for him. The check came from Jerry Boyle with Correct Care Solutions. Baylor deposited the check into his account and then had several friends donate to McCabe’s campaign for mayor in 2016. Baylor then paid his friends back from the $12,500.
“Yes, that happened,” McCabe said. “I was wrong. I feel terrible. I’m taking up the government’s time. I didn’t concentrate on campaign finances like I should have. If I put as much attention into my campaign and personal finances as much as I did in the jail’s finances, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
McCabe told the jury he was charged with a violation of campaign finances, he would have to plead guilty. He talked about using his campaign contributions to help pay for his luxury suite at Old Dominion University football games.
The former sheriff said he and Boyle were great friends. He said they would buy each other gifts and vacation together. Much of their relationship revolved around gambling and drinking.
McCabe said that CCS continued to get contracts because of performance, not gifts, lavish trips or campaign contributions.
Prosecutors will begin cross-examination Thursday morning.