Thursday, October 7, 2004

ROANOKE — U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee said he planned to drop all fraud and perjury charges against former National D-Day Memorial Foundation President Richard Burrow yesterday, one day after a second jury failed to reach a verdict in the case.

“After two deadlocked juries and mistrials, it is clear that opinions as to Mr. Burrow’s guilt are divided,” Mr. Brownlee said. “The National D-Day Memorial and our community must now move forward.”

Authorities had been investigating Mr. Burrow, 57, for three years stemming from his stewardship of the $25 million monument in Bedford. Prosecutors contended that he lied to state officials, banks and even his own board of directors in an aggressive ploy to raise money.

They indicted him twice, failing both times to convict him. On Wednesday, Senior U.S. District Judge James Turk declared a mistrial after two days of jury deliberations in Charlottesville.

The visibly frustrated and exhausted jurors said they couldn’t agree on any of the eight fraud counts. A conviction on all counts would have carried a maximum penalty of 180 years in prison.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Mr. Burrow said yesterday at a press conference. “Maybe now we’ll be able to sit down and make a plan [about the future]. That’s something we’ve not been able to do for quite some time.”

Mr. Brownlee’s announcement seems to effectively end the matter. The case, he said, should be stricken from the court docket.

The sprawling monument of polished granite and bronze soldiers is dedicated to Allied forces that invaded the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

Mr. Burrow directed the monument’s construction and dedication, efforts that were hastened in an attempt to honor as many aging World War II veterans as possible.

Building costs soared as the memorial raced to completion, and by the time Mr. Burrow left in the summer of 2001, the memorial’s supervising foundation was in massive debt.

Foundation officials publicly acknowledged they were $7 million in debt in October 2001. They eventually declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy before reaching payment agreements with their major creditors. Today, the memorial’s debt totals about $2.1 million.

Lucille Boggess, 75, a Bedford native who lost two brothers on D-Day, said she was pleased that Mr. Burrow’s legal troubles appear to have come to an end.

“I thought it was a whole lot to do about nothing,” said Miss Boggess, who served on the foundation board until 2001. “I thought Richard was under a lot of pressure, and I don’t think he intentionally tried to defraud anyone.”

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