The distinguished-looking man in the navy blue blazer and gray flannel slacks remarked that he was "sort of a stranger" in the D.C. Superior Court. Then he took the witness stand before Judge Fred L. McIntyre, raised his right hand and swore he would tell the truth.
"Would you tell us your name please?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney James F. Hibey.
"John Sirica," the witness answered.
"What is your profession?" the prosecutor asked.
"Judge," Sirica said flatly.
With that, Sirica, whose name was close to a householf word in the days when he presided as a U.S. district judge over the Watergate trials, began his testimony in the somewhat less noteworthy case of Samuel Fowler.
Fowler, 50, is charged in a 31-count indictment with falsely claiming that he was a neighbor and business partner of Sirica in order to further an alleged scheme to bilk two Washington women of cash, clothes and an automobile.
According to the indictment, Fowler also claimed that he was one of the Watergate defendants, that he had served prison time at the Allenwood, Pa., federal penitentiary - where several Watergate defendants served their sentences - and that he had $1.5 million in "Watergate funds" coming to him.
Sirica, 74, testified that he did not know Fowler, that Fowler had not been a defendant in any of his Watergate cases, and that he had not entered into any real estate deals with Fowler.
The judge, now on semiretired status at the federal court here, was cross-examined by defense lawyer Charles W. Halleck, himself a former judge of the Superior Court.
Was it not "impossible" but also "ludicrous" that Sirica, as a federal judge, would enter into any deals with a former defendant in his court? Halleck asked. Sirica smiled, and then answered, "It would be impossible."
Sirica's appearance was followed by testimony by former D.C. corporation counsel John R. Risher Jr., now a partner in a Washington law firm. According to the grand jury indictment, Fowler also claimed that he was Risher's cousin and had joined in a real estate project with him.
Risher also denied that he was involved with Fowler - or Sirica - in any real estate ventures. The government contends that Fowler told the women that a corporation would be set up to purchase houses on sale in Washington at low prices because taxes were owed on the properties.
As to whether Fowler was a relative, Risher said, "I know he's not my cousin. I think I know all my cousins."
Fowler is charged with obtaining money by false pretenses, grand larceny, larceny after trust, petit larceny and perjury in connection with incidents that occurred between September and December 1977.
Halleck contends the evidence will show that one woman lent Fowler the money on a personal basis and that other testimony will contradict the second woman's story.