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Bribery Trial For Former Va. Delegate Phil Hamilton Begins

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Hamilton is accused of facilitating state funding for an Old Dominion University teaching center while trying to secure a job there.

Monday brought opening statements in the high profile trial, and federal prosecutor David Harbach painted Hamilton as a powerful member of the state's House Appropriations Committee who, because of limited pay as an educator, became corrupt.

He argued that in 2007, Hamilton used his status as vice-chairman of that committee to secure $500,000 toward ODU's Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership in exchange for a position as the school's director. He never interviewed for the position, argued Herbach, and hid his actions from colleagues.

Hamilton's defense attorney, Andrew Sacks, countered that Hamilton used poor judgment by accepting a paid position, but was not a briber or extortionist. In fact, Sacks says the 31-year-educator had sponsored legislation for a program to improve inner-city teaching.

When Hamilton, whose day job was in leadership development in the Newport News Public School district, learned that ODU had a similar interest, he then successfully garnered the funds at the school’s request, his attorney argued.

Sacks argued that because of Hamilton's passion for teacher development, he saw an opportunity to merge his two interests, but never did he demand a job in exchange for his support. Judge Henry Hudson said the trial may take at least a week-and-a half.

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