The president of the Alexandria Bar Association said yesterday he thinks Commonwealth's Attorney William L. Cowhig should remove himself from office pending disposition of the bribery and gambling charges against him.
"If it were me, I'd step aside," said bar president Roger L. Amole. "He cannot operate in light of these charges. It's overwhelming. Everyone in the community is heartsick."
Amole said he has received calls from more than a dozen local attorneys, all of them recommending that Cowhig, who was indicted by a Circuit Court jury Thursday, step aside as the city's chief prosecutor until after his trial.
Cowhig, who did not appear at his office yesterday and could not be reached for comment, was not without supporters.
One of them is Mayor Frank E. Mann, who said, "I would be absolutely astounded if Cowhig had done antything wrong. I've known Cowhig for a long time. We're good friends. I don't believe he did anything wrong."
Cowhig, 52, was indicted on one charge of bribery and two of operating illegal gambling operations as a result of an investigation of bingo games in the city. He is accused of accepting about $34,000 in bribes at the rate of $500 a week this year and last from the Montessori School of Alexandria and its director, Dirgham Salahi. The school has used bingo games for fund raising for several years.
Cowhig is expected to appear before Chief Circuit Judge Franklin P. Backus Monday morning to be formally advised of the charges against him.
Meanwhile, federal and local officials continued their probe of the city's once-flourishing bing games, which grossed $1.2 million last year, and, according to officials, perhaps much more.
Authoritiies are known to be investigating Cowhig's finances in light of the $34,000 which the indictment says he received from Salahi "at various places in the city of Alexandria."
They also have expressed interest in Cowhig's holdings on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas where Cowhig and his family own a small hotel and where he maintains an account at the Bank of Nova Scotia.
The bingo investigation also has touched a second foreign country, Canada, according to a federal official. Federal investigators are examining deposit slips from the New Century Corp. Bank of Montreal that were seized by Alexandria police in May from the office of Alva Ford Thompson, who is charged with running an illegal bingo game.
It is now known what individual or organization has the Canadian bank account.