- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A former Virginia legislator convicted of bribery and extortion says he doesn’t believe he deserves to be in prison, but he remains upbeat.

Former Del. Phillip Hamilton is serving a 9 ½-year sentence at Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, N.J. In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1fOAAzo), Hamilton said that he has been able to maintain a positive attitude.

“I still don’t feel like I was dealt with justly. I feel like I got a bum rap,” Hamilton said Friday. But, he said, “The glass is always half full, and that is a philosophy that I think has helped me handle this adjustment.”

“This is not where I want to be. I don’t believe I deserve to be here, but this is where I am, and I’ve always believed when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” he said.

Hamilton, 61, of Newport News was convicted in 2011 of soliciting a job as director of a teacher training center he helped create in 2007 with taxpayer money. The Republican was vice chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee in 2007 when he successfully sponsored a $500,000 budget amendment for the center at Old Dominion University, which then gave him the $40,000-a-year part-time job as director without interviewing other applicants.

Both Newport News, where Hamilton lived and worked, and Norfolk, which is home to ODU, have a federal courthouse, he said. He turned himself in to the FBI in Newport News and his initial court appearance was in Norfolk.

“So it was somewhat surprising that my trial was in Richmond, which just happened to be two blocks away from the state Capitol, which seemed to add a very political flavor to the whole circumstance,” Hamilton said.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Hamilton’s final appeal on April 15, 2013.

Hamilton denied that he is guilty and said he plans to seek a reduction of his sentence.

“I’m going to exercise every option available to me to try to right the wrong that I think has been committed,” Hamilton said.

“I may be the only person in the commonwealth of Virginia that thinks I was done wrong. That’s OK, I’m still going to exercise the right that I have to exonerate myself,” he said.

As a prisoner, Hamilton does groundskeeping work for buildings that are off the prison compound.

“I love it,” he said. He takes care of flower beds, among other things, and the work puts him in touch with people not associated with the prison.

“I think I’ve been able to maintain a positive attitude,” he said.

“Of course, I’d rather not be here, but this is not the worst place on earth, I can assure you. . It’s not paradise, but it’s not ‘Papillion,’ either.”

“By and large, it’s a pretty easy bunch of folks,” Hamilton said. “Everybody’s here; they’re doing their time. Everybody’s working to get home.”

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com


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