Friday, December 2, 2022

My Book is Now on Sale!

 Friends, my book is now on sale.  Check it out.



https://www.amazon.com/Elections-Have-Consequences-Cautionary-Tale/dp/B0B54WHVRP/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1XBH4RD690X85&keywords=elections+have+consequences+book&qid=1670053914&sprefix=elections+have%2Caps%2C162&sr=8-1

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Former Delegate Hamilton Speaks Out



 The following is a statement by former Delegate Phil Hamilton and then my interview with him

"In July 2009, I was contacted by a Virginian Pilot reporter concerning my part-time employment with Old Dominion University. During that telephone interview, I acknowledged my part-time employment with the ODU Center for Educational Leadership and Teacher Quality.

One month later, in late August, and two months before the state elections were to take place, I was contacted by the FBI who requested to meet with me. During that meeting, I was informed they were investigating my employment with ODU based on the Virginian Pilot article published earlier that month. Based on the interview with the FBI, it was obvious to me that there was no complaint filed but only a newspaper article from a Norfolk-based newspaper.

Over two years later in January 2011, I was indicted by a Richmond-area Grand Jury for one count of bribery and one count of extortion under color of official right. I self-surrendered to the FBI in Newport News where I was handcuffed, transported to the Norfolk federal courthouse where I was shackled, and placed in a cell to wait over three hours for an appearance before a federal magistrate who informed me of the charges.

One week later, I appeared for my arraignment in federal court in Richmond on the charges in my indictment. I pleaded not guilty, waived the speedy trial requirement, and requested a trial by jury. The US attorney and my defense attorney estimated the trial would take approximately three weeks. Even so, the judge, because of his calendar, limited the trial to two weeks beginning on May 2, 2011.

In the government's opening statement, the US attorney acknowledged that the case was mostly a circumstantial evidence case. Circumstantial evidence relies on an inference, whether accurate or not,  to connect it to the wanted conclusion as opposed to direct evidence which supports the truth of an assertion.

The government's circumstantial evidence centered on several personal emails where I indicated that an ODU official believed the university would be offering me a job during the summer of 2006. This same ODU official, with government immunity,  testified that he had been pursuing me for an ODU job since 2004, and that I never asked for any job with ODU. He also testified that he had provided differing versions of testimony to multiple Grand Juries and even to the Court under direct testimony during the trial.

The government's case also referenced a budget amendment that I submitted to the Virginia budget during the 2007 legislative session to create a Center for Educational Leadership and Teacher Quality. That amendment was to create an educational center at a public school or school division in the Commonwealth.

In 2004 and 2006, I unsuccessfully submitted similar budget amendments to create such an educational center at the Newport News Public Schools' An Achievable Dream Academy. This school had a proven record of academic achievement with at-risk students, and the school's founder was interested in hosting such a training center for school administrators and teachers.

Because the House Appropriations Committee's,   Elementary & Secondary Education subcommittee chairman was opposed to any funding for An Achievable Dream Academy, my 2007 budget amendment was not public school specific for hosting such a center. As a result, the amendment passed the subcommittee and full committee and was included as a House budget amendment with the General Fund (state tax generated revenue) funding designated for public, not higher education, funding.

During budget conference negotiations, the Senate Finance Committee chairman indicated that the House-approved amendment would not be included in the Budget Conference Committee's final budget amendments. This same senator testified during the trial that he had never heard of such an amendment.

From court testimony from two Senate Finance Committee staffers,.I learned that an ODU-specific amendment for such a center was submitted but not included in the Senate-approved budgret amendments. These government witnesses also testified that they, without my knowledge, had rewritten my House-approved amendment to be an ODU amendment which moved it from the Elementary & Secondary Education section to the Higher Education section of the state budget.

Knowing that my amendment was not in the Budget Conference Report and being unaware of the Senate staffers' change to my amendment which changed the appropriation of funding from public education to the higher education section of the budget document, I voted for the Budget Conference Report which included multiple budget amendments.

Even though it is my perspective that none of these and other government witnesses ever presented any testimony or direct evidence to substantiate the charges against me, the jury deliberated and found me guilty of the two counts in the indictment.

In August 2011, I was sentenced by the federal judge to 114 months in federal prison. I reported to prison in September 2011, and after serving 85% of my sentence and 15 months of federal probation, I was no longer under federal supervision as of April 2020.

While incarcerated, I filed numerous appeals primarily focusing on the ineffective assistance of counsel and due process of law pursuant to the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to the US Constitution. While my final appeal to the US Supreme Court was pending, the Court was also considering an appeal from former Governor Robert McDonnell. The Court even requested additional information from me about my appeal.

In the US Supreme Court opinion that ultimately overturned Governor Robert McDonnell's 11 convictions, they stated that an official act needed to specifically address the alleged action. My vote on the Budget Conference Report was not a single, specific vote on an amendment to create an educational center at ODU. Unfortunately, my pro se (written and filed by me and not an attorney) appeal to the US Supreme Court was filed prior to the McDonnell ruling and several weeks past the 90-day limit for my appeal to be filed and thereby was denied.

In spite of the injustice, I believe was imposed upon me, I bear no bitterness towards anyone. For me, there are four equal components to freedom – physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. Throughout my experience, the government only controlled my physical freedom. I controlled my spiritual, emotional, and mental freedom. While I witnessed many others who surrendered all or a portion of the three freedoms they controlled, I refused to do so. As a result, I kept 75% of my freedom, while the government maintained its 25%.

Even so, and while the American “justice” system may be the fairest and most just judicial system in the world, below are some, not all, reforms that I believe should be considered:

•        Since lawyer's opening. statements are not evidence; they should not be permitted as they provide an opportunity to poison the mind of a juror towards a defendant before any evidence has been presented.

•        Guilt should be determined by DIRECT, not circumstantial, evidence. Evidence should be considered by jurors as truth not inference.

•        Initial appeals should not be filed with the presiding trial judge. Often times that appeal might be based on rulings or actions by the presiding trial judge and a open mind should review the appeal.

      •        No witness should be granted immunity to testify. If a crime has been intentionally committed, all involved individuals should be

judged accordingly and held accountable.

•        Regardless of an immunity agreement, any immunized witness who testifies to making contradictory statements while under oath should be immediately dismissed as a witness and charged with felony perjury.

 

•        The government should not be permitted to initiate plea bargain agreements. I believe government-initiated plea agreements are used to intimidate or coerce defendants in to pleading guilty. Approximately 97% of federal convictions are the result of plea bargains. All defendants should exercise their constitutional right to a trial by jury.

 

•        Sentencing enhancements should not be permitted after a trial has concluded. Defendants should only be sentenced for crimes specifically presented during the trial."

 

Part Two.  My Interview with former Delegate Hamilton:


Virginia Gentleman: Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with me.  There are those that say your sentence of 114 months in jail for 2 felonies was excessive, especially compared with former Governor McDonnell’s sentence of 2 years for basically 11 counts.  Do you think it was excessive?

Hamilton: My sentence was within the discretionary US sentencing guidelines. Many have questioned me about the length of my sentence. My response was that given the facts, not circumstances, of the case, the sentence was extreme. It is hard to intellectually understand the sentencing discrepancy between my case and that of Gov. McDonnell. McDonnell had 5 times the convictions, and I received 5 times the sentence. I will leave it to others to explain the justice in that. In my pre-sentencing report done by the US Probation Dept, it was stated that my case had ZERO victims, but that didn't matter much to the judge in my case.

Virginia Gentleman: Some have argued that the Feds, under former President Obama, wanted to go after Virginia politicians.  Do you think there might be some truth to that and that you were targeted?

Hamilton: As far as being targeted, I believe that to be true. I did not hide the fact that I was employed by ODU. My employer, NN Public Schools, knew. I listed my ODU employment every applicable year on my Statement of Economic Interests which many media outlets FOIAed every year. I included my ODU W-2 forms on all applicable tax years when filing my federal and state taxes. As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, I am sure I made plenty of political opponents over the years.

 Virginia GentlemanWas anyone else convicted with you?  It seems that more than one person would have been involved in what the Feds alleged.

Hamilton: No one else was convicted with me. Two ODU officials were given immunity to testify against me. From my perspective, neither ODU witness ever claimed I had bribed or extorted anyone. 

Virginia Gentleman: You claimed you had no criminal or corrupt intent.  What did you mean by that:    

Hamilton:  Because I contend that I committed no crimes, the question of criminal intent never entered my mind in introducing any legislation that I ever submitted. As a public school educator who worked in professional development for Newport News Public Schools, I had created a successful Leadership Academy for Aspiring School Principals that focused on the ISLLC standards which are now known as the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders. At the request of the now deceased former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. William Bosher, I successfully introduced legislation to create an Educational Leadership Reform Commission that recommended numerous possible state initiatives to improve educational leadership in the public schools of Virginia. I also successfully introduced legislation related to standards for educational leaders. My efforts to create an educational center at An Achievable Dream Academy or any other public school or school division that met certain criteria was an extension of my service as chairman of the Educational Leadership Reform Commission. In spiute of my criminal conviction, I stand by my professional and legislative careers as direct evidence that none of my actions were ever done with any criminal intent.

Virginia Gentleman: What did you think of the job the media did on reporting your case?

Hamilton: Other than several pre-indictment and pre-trial news articles that claimed I had lobbied other legislators for an amendment that created the Center for Educational Leadership and Teacher Quality at ODU, I was pleased with the media coverage my trial received. During the trial, the government never produced evidence or a witness that indicated I had done anything to promote an amendment for ODU. Even the state senator that put in the ODU amendment that failed to be included in the Senate's budget proposal testified that he never spoke to me about his amendment and had no knowledge of the amendment I submitted.

Virginia Gentleman: Do you think prison changed you?

Hamilton: The only changes that I have experienced from my prison experiences have been a disillusionment with the American federal judicial system and the reality of prison. From my perspective the federal judicial system is less concerned with justice (truth) and more concerned with convictions. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are developed and?or amended by the US Supreme Court. Having lifetime appointed justices decide on the “rules” to be followed in federal criminal cases seems like “the hen watching the hen house.” Given my experience, I find it difficult to see this as anything but one set of non-accountable government officials making rules for other non-accountable government officials. While no system of justice can be 100% accurate, I previously mentioned some reforms that I believe could make the current system more just and fairer. I have a much better understanding and appreciation for those who have raised concerns about the American criminal justice system.

Virginia Gentleman: What is your view of the federal prison system?


Hamilton: As for the federal prison system, my experience was with the prison camp level rather than levels of low, medium, and maximum security. The camp level is intended for individuals convicted of non-violent federal crimes and inmates transitioning from higher security levels prior to ultimate release back into society. From my perspective, every camp environment should provide opportunities for individuals to prepare themselves to become productive members of society..This would require that trade school-like programs  be available. As an incentive for participating in and achieving a federal Dept of Labor apprenticeship, technical certification, or trade license as a HVAC technician, electrician, plumber, carpenter, food services, landscaping, horticulture, or other similar trades, an inmate achieving such should be granted an additional “good time” credit of 20%. Any inmate who successfully completes


the GED educational program should also be eligible for this “good time” credit. Such incentives would still require inmates to serve a minimum of 65% of their sentence and, quite possibly, reduce the current recidivism rates among those released from prison, While incarcerated at the Fort Dix Camp facility, I earned a Landscaping Technician certificate from the Department of Labor. Throughout my incarceration, I stayed active by working in horticulture and landscaping jobs. Prison should be an opportunity for real rehabilitation rather than just the useless warehousing of individuals.

 Virginia Gentleman:  What are you doing now?

Hamilton: Currently, I am enjoying life as a fixed income retiree. I play plenty of golf, spend time with friends and family, read, tend to my spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health, and follow the politics of the day. I have been honored to share my insights with a few community and political groups. All-in-all, I am blessed.


Sunday, February 6, 2022

Jeff Schapiro's Bad History Lesson


Richmond Times Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro quotes (perhaps with the intention as an homage) Karl Marx line history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce.  He attempts to link Republican victories in 2021 with Democrat victories, are you ready for this, Democrat victories in 1885! 

The first sentence in his column, “Virginia Republicans were partying like it is 1885.”  I understand that progressive like to re write history, but this is downright insulting.

Virginia Republicans had no real power in the 19th century.  Schapiro admits later into the column that Fitzhugh Lee, elected in 1885 was, unlike Glenn Youngkin, a Democrat.  It reminds me of the time CNN claimed Ralph Northam was a Republican. A brazen lie that can fool the masses. 

Schapiro claims that while Lee was not a Republican, he was a “conservative Democrat”.  Well, in 1885 Republicans had a candidate for Governor, John Sargeant Wise, he lost, but Schapiro suggests that Republicans were still happy.  Indeed they “celebrated” the victory of Democrat Lee.  This is ahistorical nonsense.

Schapiro believes that conservative Democrats were the bad guys back then (the Republicans of today).  There is a reason he goes back to the late 19th century and not the early 20th century.  It would be inconvenient for him to talk about what the progressive Democrats did.  I will give you a hint, it was so horrific that for the rest of the century Democrats stopped calling themselves progressives. 

Schapiro writes: “What is new is old: 21st century Republicans by deed and dogma are harkening back to the late 19th century when Virginia, as they are doing now in partially restoring Republicans to power angrily rejecting racial, social and cultural advances, as too much too soon.”

Well, that statement is false. Virginia did not restore Republicans to power in the 19th century based on racial grievances nor did they in November of 2021.

Secondly, I don’t know how opposing “cultural advances” gets you back to 1885.  And I doubt Republicans will want to jettison electricity, which will be necessary if you really want the 1885 experience. 

As far as “harkening back to the 19th century”, why is that necessary.  In 2009 Republican Bob McDonnell was elected Governor, and Republicans kept the House of Delegates, the same situation as today.  Surely, Glenn Youngkin has more in common with fellow Republican Bob McDonnell then he would with 19th century Democrat Fitzhugh Lee.

Schapiro continues to feebly link Democrat policies of poll taxes and literacy tests to Youngkin’s resistance to 45 days of early voting, and ballot drop boxes. 

The comparison with poll taxes and ballot drop boxes off Lee highway is ridiculous.

I have been told that Jeff Schapiro was once a reporter.  Well, he should dust of his press badge, go to a Youngkin press conference and ask, “Governor Youngkin why are you so hell bent on taking the state back to 1885?”

Sadly, with the state of our media and educational system, that question wouldn’t cause a single eye to bat or roll.  It would simply cause the other reporters to lament, why didn't I think of such a great question.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Why Youngkin Won and McAuliffe Lost

Considered to be an upset by most of the political pundits, Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe and will become the first Republican Governor Virginia has had in 12 years. After a long dry spell Virginia Republicans have come back, and back big time! Come January Republicans will control all three statewide constitutional offices. I proudly contributed, worked and voted to get Youngkin elected. 

 So why the upset? How did Youngkin win? Well, here are my key resaons for Virginia, at least for election night 2021 turned red giving Youngkin a Republican House of Delegates; finishing with 52 seats. Here are my reasons for the Younkin victory: 

Being a former Governor didn't help McAuliffe. 

Virginia has a long, and in my opinion, great tradition of one term Governors, in fact the tradition is enshrined in our state's constitution, a Virginia governor cannot succeed himself. However, the constitution does not prevent them from running in the future for the Governor's office, Terry McAuliffe was eligible to run in 2021, that is, he could run to succeed Ralph Northam. I think Virginians are happy, indeed I would say downright proud, of the tradition of one term Governors. The only Governor in modern Virginia history to make it back to the Governor's office was Mills Godwin, a truly great Governor. However, his second election to the office was quite close. He defeated Henry Howell 50.7% to 49.3% Officially Howell ran as an independent. At the time Howell was considered too far left for Virgina Democrats, so they didn't nominate him, in fact they didn't nominate a candidate, simply quietly voting for Howell. Howell was far left by the 1970's standard, but today he'd be a moderate Democrat. For example there is no evidence that he believed in anything like critical race theory, gender neutral bathrooms, or porn in the school libraries. Seems it was his support for organized labor that earned him the label of a liberal. It struck me that despite Godwin's popularity and Howell's radicalism, it was still close. Godwin squeaked by, but the lesson is that it is tough for a former Governor to make it back, even a popular one like Godwin. The bottom line, unless the Governor is popular, or better yet known for some great achievement Virginians aren't going to bring them back. So when the media described McAuliffe as a "former Governor" it didn't help him. By default Virginians would probably want to give someone else a shot at the job.


"Youngkin is Trump in a fleece vest."

McAuliffe seemed to have only one play, tie Youngkin to Trump. It makes some political sense, Trump lost Virginia big, so the desire to link fellow Republican Youngkin to Trump is understandable. The problem with the strategy is that it was not believable. Exit polls showed Virginians had a favorable view of Youngkin, unlike Trump. In addition to linking them both as Republicans, McAuliffe tried to make a link in two dishonest ways. He used a sound bite of Youngkin claiming that Trump inspired him to run, "Donald Trump is the reason I got into the race." Youngkin simply meant that he like Trump was a political novice, and business executive, and like Trump he could enter government and make change. McAuliffe tried to claim Youngkin was inspired by Trump's political views to run. The second way the McAuliffe campaign tried to link the two is the claim that Trump "endorsed Youngkin". McAuliffe even sent out mailers making the claim. I received one of these mailers with the headline "Trump Endorsed." But I then noticed this came from the McAuliffe campaign. Trump didn't endorse a candidate in the nomination battle. Once Youngkin became the nominee Trump said nice things about him and in a sense endorsed him in the general election. But of course, Trump was going to back the Republican gubernatorial nominee. That is not the same as endorsing a candidate. There is very little similarity between Trump and Youngkin, both in terms of substance and style. Glenn Youngkin is a traditional family man, I think married to the same woman, that is never divorced, he is known to be a man of faith, and his personality and demeanor can in no way be described as Trump like. Youngkin came across like a normal person, quite earnest and sincere. As they say he was comfortable in his own skin, or in his case a fleece vest jacket. The bottom-line McAuliffe hurt himself by exaggerating a connection between Youngkin to Trump. It made some sense, after all Trump is unpopular in Virginia, but the comparison was such a stretch that it called in to question McAuliffe's sincerity. It also seemed McAuliffe had nothing else on which to attack Youngkin. From the minute Youngkin became the Republican nominee in May, McAuliffe tried to tie him to Trump. The amazing thing, that from that day to election day there was no evidence that I am aware of that shows the strategy was working. Yet McAuliffe kept on crying Trump. What's the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over again and expecting a different results.   I don't think McAuliffe is insane, simply that he had nothing else to hit Youngkin with. 

 Governor Northam's Shutdown 

 In response to the covid pandemic Governor Ralph Northam issued orders in late March 2020 curtailing private business operations and shutting down schools, forcing the school districts to open virtual learning. This shutdown lasted to some extent into the summer. History will judge whether the long shutdown was a good idea, but there is no doubt that it crippled many small and mid-sized businesses in Virginia. From a political standpoint the shutdown left a bad taste in the mouths of many small business owners. And those people probably had second thoughts about voting for another Democrat candidate for governor. The more significant fallout from the shutdown came from parents who got a good look at what their children were being taught in school. Since the school buildings were closed the parents were in charge of administering the school's curriculum to their children. This was a wakeup call! Most parents, like most adults, have accepted that they will be subjected to indoctrination at work, but they will not accept their kids being subjected to indoctrination. Clinging to his base perhaps McAuliffe denied that the schools were indoctrinating kids in schools. Even denying the existence of critical race theory. As bad luck (for him) would have it, a memo from his administration confirming the theory and its use in Virginia schools surfaced.

 "Parents have no business telling schools what to teach."

If there ever was a killer moment or gaffe in this race it came in the second and final debate. In a question on education McAuliffe opined angerly, "Parents have no business telling schools what to teach." Youngkin smartly seized on it, and within 24 hours his campaign ran ads using the quote. The reasons we have elected school boards is to give parents a voice in how schools are run, and yes what is in the curriculum. In addition to being elitist McAuliffe's statement runs against the notion of schools being accountable. The remarkable thing is that McAuliffe doubled down on the comment. Perhaps he felt he needed to stick close to the teacher union, but it probably would have been better to walk back the statement. Offer a clarification and clearly state the importance of parental involvement. Instead, he stuck with the teacher union line that the parents are out of control.

Biden unpopularity was a factor.

 Virginia elected Joe Biden, and after one year they have had enough. An exit poll had Biden's approval rating at 46 percent. No doubt about it, Biden helped turn out Republicans and depressed voters that usually vote Democrat but are disappointed in the last Democrat they voted for. Now McAuliffe is not responsible for Biden's unpopularity, but he is responsible for his embrace of Biden. He could have tried to distance himself, instead he invited him to come to Virginia and campaign. Ironically, McAuliffe needled Youngkin for not inviting Trump to Virginia to campaign with him. Youngkin was wise not to take the bait. Trump stayed out and that was to the benefit of Youngkin. However, McAuliffe should have followed Youngkin's example and not invited Biden to come to campaign. Trump might be politically toxic in Virginia, but Biden is not held in much higher esteem in the Old Dominion.