A Prince George's County judge said he wore a listening device last month to enable police to overhear his conversation with a man who has since been charged with attempting to bribe him in connection with a gambling case.
As a result of the police investigation, which County District Court Judge Sylvania W. Woods said he initiated, James Lynwood Strickland, 47, of Brandywine, was arrested June 12 and charged with attempting to bribe a judge and obstructing justice.
Strickland had allegedly asked the judge to rule favorably for Norman Smith, a defendant in a gambling trial over which Woods is presiding.
Wood's account of the alleged bribery attempt came Friday as he presided in the trial of Smith and eight other defendants in the gambling case. He said he wanted to give the defendants and their attorneys a chance to ask for another judge, but no such request was forthcoming. Smith denied knowing Strickland and said he had no knowledge of any bribery attempt.
According to a transcript of the trial session made available yesterday, Judge Woods said Strickland, "whose name did not sound familiar to me," phoned him at home and said they had met during the 1950s in a boarding house where the judge stayed while attending American University Law School.
Woods said he couldn't "even remember having a cup of coffee or cocktail with him."
The judge said Strickland remarked. "You have before you a gambling case which you took under advisement. I'm calling you to help my friend, Norman Smith . . . We will make it worth you while."
Judge Woods said he immediately told county vice and intelligence investiators of the conversation.
Acting on the advise of police, Woods said, he kept an appointment with Strickland on a Saturday at a Chinese restaurant in Coral Hills.
Strickland talked for two hours, Woods said, before renewing his offer and asking the judge "to name my price." Woods said that when he balked, Strickland offered him "a large sum of money."
Later, Woods said at last Friday's court session, he met with Strickland in the County Court house where a plainclothes policeman "stood 5 to 7 feet" away as the judge was handed a large sum of money. Through use of the listening device, notes were taken on the conversation, Woods said.
Woods said in Court he was "quite upset and disturbed" that anyone would think he might be a party to obstructing justice.
After Judge Woods completed his account and no one moved to replace him with another judge, Woods denied a defense motion to suppress wiretap evidence obtained by the prosecution in the trial of Smith and the eight other defendants.
The arrest a year ago of the nine on trial in the gambling case followed a month-long investigation by police in Prince George's, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties and the District of Columbia into an alleged numbers operation that police said produced a yearly profit of about $2.5 million.