Testifying in his own defense Wednesday, former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe admitted to violating campaign finance laws, getting loans and gifts from businessmen who had multi-million dollar contracts with the city’s jail, and sometimes treating employees badly — but he adamantly denied taking any bribes.
McCabe, who served as the city’s sheriff for 22 years, spent about five hours testifying in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. He’ll return to the witness stand Thursday to begin cross examination.
The 63-year-old is charged with multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. His trial began Aug. 3 and testimony is expected to wrap up by the end of the week. Each of the 11 counts he’s charged with carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
McCabe and his lawyer, James Broccoletti, addressed the bribery allegations as soon as his testimony began.
“I’ve never taken a bribe in my life,” the former sheriff said. “I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve never taken a bribe.”
“Are you a crook?” Broccoletti asked.
“No sir,” McCabe responded.
When McCabe was elected in 1994, he was as a Norfolk police detective. Before that, he was in the Navy and worked a short time as a prison guard, he said.
He had no administrative experience and learned how to do the sheriff’s job largely from talking to other local sheriffs, he said. He also said he had a drinking problem.
“I kind of flew by the seat of my pants for the first 10 years probably,” he said.
He admitted to consistently waiting until the last minute to put together and file his campaign finance reports and said he probably failed to report some contributions and expenditures, but claimed it was never intentional.
“I don’t think I ever did a campaign finance report that wasn’t on the day it was due,” he said. “That’s not an excuse, it’s just an explanation. ... I just didn’t pay attention to them like I should have.”
McCabe also admitted to taking a check for $12,500 from Gerard “Jerry” Boyle when McCabe was running for mayor in 2016. Boyle, who also is charged in the case and had a contract with the Norfolk jail to provide inmate medical service, left the “pay to the order” part blank.
McCabe got his friend, Norfolk businessman James Baylor, to cash it in Baylor’s name. Baylor then gave the money to other people so they could use the funds to give McCabe campaign donations. It was all done so that Boyle’s name would not be associated with the money, the former sheriff said.
“It was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that,” McCabe said. “It was more to protect (Boyle) from getting hit up by other sheriffs” for similar donations, and not because he thought there was anything wrong with it, he said.
McCabe is charged with money laundering for his role in how that check was handled.
The former sheriff admitted he once got a $5,000 loan from Boyle, and accepted $3,000 to $4,000 from him to spend during a casino trip, but said it was because they were friends — not because of their business relationship.
He denied ever directing his staff to give bid information to favored contractors, as some employees claimed while testifying.
“That never happened,” he said.
The former sheriff also told jurors about how embarrassed and troubled he was by testimony offered by some of his former employees about things he asked them to do, such as driving him to events in a limousine, picking up his son from school and walking his dogs. McCabe said he didn’t realize it bothered them.
Among the former employees who testified was Gerry Sharrow, a former administrative assistant who frequently drove McCabe to events in a limousine owned by Ocean View businessman Ronnie Boone.
While Sharrow told jurors he often wore a tuxedo jacket and chauffer’s hat at the sheriff’s request, McCabe said he didn’t remember asking him to do that.
“I thought the hat was kind of goofy looking,” he said.
Jane Harper, 757-222-5097, firstname.lastname@example.org