WASHINGTON – Phillip A. Hamilton, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, today was convicted by a jury in Richmond, Va., of soliciting employees of Old Dominion University (ODU) for a paid position at the same time he was introducing legislation to fund the position, announced U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Phil Hamilton sold his services as a legislator to get a job at ODU. He promised to use his influence as a powerful, 20-year delegate to get ODU funding, but it came with a price – they had to pay him $40,000 a year,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Bribery and extortion are never just the cost of doing business in government. Today’s guilty verdict should serve as a reminder to every legislator of the trust the public has in our elected officials. Never betray that trust. Never sell your office. And never forget that if you do, we will hold you accountable.”
“Mr. Hamilton abused his political office for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “His sweetheart deal ensured that only he would be considered for a position he created and shepherded through the Virginia General Assembly. Americans deserve more from their representatives, and today a Virginia jury showed that citizens will not tolerate these abuses.”
Hamilton, 59, was convicted today of one count of federal program bribery and one count of extortion under color of official right. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the bribery charge and up to 20 years in prison on the extortion charge when he is sentenced on Aug. 12, 2011.
Hamilton was elected in 1988 to represent the 93rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates, which includes Newport News and James City County, Va. As part of his duties, Hamilton sat on the Elementary & Secondary Education Subcommittee of the Virginia House Appropriations Committee.
According to the Jan. 5, 2011, indictment and evidence presented at trial, from August 2006 through February 2007, Hamilton solicited employees of ODU for a position as director for the ODU Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership. The center’s objective was to train teachers for success in urban school environments. During this period, Hamilton simultaneously introduced legislation that would establish and fund the center, including his salary as the director.
According to an email that Hamilton sent to an ODU official on Dec. 21, 2006, which was admitted as evidence at trial, Hamilton stated that the current budget did not include any funding for the center, his retirement payments from another source were being reduced in May 2007, and he would need to supplement his current income. Evidence at trial showed that an ODU official assured Hamilton in December 2006 and January 2007 that if ODU obtained funding from the Virginia General Assembly for the creation of the center, then Hamilton would have a job at the center. During this same period, in January 2007, Hamilton introduced a budget amendment in the House of Delegates to appropriate $1 million in fiscal year 2007-2008 (July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008) for a “Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership.” The amendment passed the full committee unanimously.
On Feb. 24, 2007, after a conference between the Virginia house and senate that resulted in an amendment to appropriate $500,000 to ODU for the center – for which Hamilton voted in favor - the budget bill was passed. The next day, according to evidence at trial, Hamilton and ODU officials exchanged emails about Hamilton receiving the director job. Approximately three people applied in response to a job posting for the position; however, none of them were interviewed. Hamilton, who was awarded the job, never submitted an application.
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.
Evidence at trial showed that Hamilton took numerous steps to conceal this arrangement, including telling ODU officials not to mention his name in connection with the center to members of the Virginia Senate Finance Committee; 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 emails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that ODU had received.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney David V. Harbach II of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Seidel Jr. of the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the FBI.