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Breaking The Hamilton Case: A Reporter Shares His Story

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Former Virginia Delegate Phil Hamilton represented the Newport News area for more than 20 years.
Wikimedia Commons
Former Virginia Delegate Phil Hamilton represented the Newport News area for more than 20 years.

It started unfolding in the summer of 2009, Sizemore said. The paper became aware that a senior member of the state legislature, who was also on the Old Dominion staff, had been actively helping to bring in money for the university.

"It just seemed like it was worthy of digging," Sizemore said.

The paper published an initial story and then put in a FOIA request to the university. Old Dominion released hundreds of pages of emails. But Sizemore said he never expected the case to go as far as it did.

"Even after we became aware that there was a federal investigation, I never envisioned sitting in that courtroom and watching this veteran legislator brought down."

But he had expected the investigation to hurt Hamilton at the polls. And it did: He lost re-election that fall.

A federal jury convicted Hamilton on Wednesday, just hours after closing arguments. Sizemore said sitting in the courtroom then was "sobering," as he watched the public servant's "two-decade career not only brought to a halt, but really completely overshadowed by this one incident."

He said he did feel a sense of responsibility.

"And I'll have to say it weighed pretty heavily me. It still does. It will for a long time. This was a devastating development in the life of this politician and his family, and I take that very seriously."

Sizemore does not, however, have regrets because he said holding public officials accountable is part of his job "on behalf of my readers and the citizens." He also says the case will not affect how he reports in the future.

"I'm just [going to] keep doing what I've always done, which is follow the leads wherever they go and let the chips fall where they will."

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for August 12.

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