A lawyer who helped Alexandria prosecutor William L. Cowhig win acquittal on bribery charges in a bitter trial last month yesterday blamed the presiding judge for permitting the attorneys to trade courtroom invective.
"The fault lies entirely with" Circuit Judge Percy Thornoton, said the lawyer, Leonard B. Sussholz of Alexandria. "Had the presiding judge acted promptly and properly, there would never have been such 'personal vilification and (character) assassination."
The trial, in which Cowhigh was cleared of accusations that he had accepted bribes from a local bingo game operator, was marked by sharp personal asides between defense lawyers Sussholz and Louid Koutoulakos, and special prosecutor Edward J. White. There also was a brief scuffle involving White and Sussholz in the corridor as the men awaited the jury's verdict.
In a Manassas courtroom on Friday, Judge Thornton criticized the lawyers' conduct, saying that never in his 11 years on the nench "have I seen such personal assassination and vilification." Thornton said he would not tolerate such behavior when Cowhig's next trial, on an illegal gambling charge, begins Jan. 22
Thorton, reached yesterday, declined to comment on Sussholz's remarks. Sussholz is not expected to participate in the upcoming trial.
The intensity of the bribery trial drew some adverse comment afterward from local officials, including one city council member who said, "The whole procedure didn't improve the image of law and order in Alexandria. As a lawyer I resent it when you turn the courtroom into a circus."