Lawyers for indicted Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney William L. Cowhig yesterday accused special prosecutor Edward J. White of influencing "several key witnesses" in Cowhig's forthcoming bribery trial not to talk with them.
In papers field in Alexandria Circuit Court, Cowhig's lawyers alleged that White told three witnesses to avoid them.
White refused to comment on the charges yesterday, saying, "I'll make my comment in court."
On Monday, Cowhig's lawyers will request a Prince William Circuit Court judge who will preside at Cowhig's trial to order "agents and functionaries of the commonwealth and other witnesses" to submit to interview by the defense attorneys.
Cowhig, 53, was indicted Aug. 3 on charges of bribery and illegal gambling in connection with Alexandria's flourishing bingo games. Special prosecutor White has said that Cowhig received $500 a week from the man who ran Alexandria's most lucrative bingo game, Dirgham Salahi.
In exchange for the alleged payoffs, White said, Cowhig did not prosecute Salahi for alleged violations of the bingo law discovered by police after an investigation into Salahi and his Montessori School of Alexandria. A 1976 police report, made by state police investigator Coy Ivy, was made public this week.
Cowhig's lawyers claimed yesterday that "two witnesses in this matter who are crucial to the case have agreed to be interviewed . . . and have subsequently refused after speaking to Mr. White."
A third witness, according to the lawyers, has also refused to be interviewed.
The defense lawyers did not reveal the name of the witnesses they claim White "has either by direction or innuendo influenced . . . to become unavailable to the defendant's counsel."
However, one source close to the defense said they were Salahi and Ivy. The identity of the third witness could not be learned yesterday.
Cowhig proclaimed his innocense after the indictments were handed down, and has stepped aside temporarily from office. He has refused to comment on the charges.
In a separate motion filed yesterday, Cowhig's lawyers asked Salahi and his wife, Corrinne, to appear in the Alexandria Cricuit Court clerk's office on Thursday to produce their 1970 to 1977 federal and state income tax returns, deposit slips for bingo proceeds for 1973 to 1978, all their financial statements, their passports, 1973 to 1978 records of the Salahis' personal purchases above $1,000 and other related financial documents.
In addition, a subponea was issued for the College Park firm of S. Lachman & Sons Inc. to produce records and sales of bingo equipment to Salahi and the Montessori School.
The defense lawyers are claiming that all the requested materials are in White's possession.