The investigations and trials of bingo and illegal gaambling in Alexandria that centered on former commonwealth's attorney William L. Cowhig cost the taxpayers nearly $140,000, according to court records and officials.
The largest single total was a $35,138.93 bill submitted to the Alexandria Circuit Court by Special Prosecutor Edward J. White. Nearly half of White's expenses charged at the rate of $50 an hour, were compiled during months when he twice brought Cowhig to trial, and twice failed to convict him.
Cowhig resigned as the city's chief prosecutor in January in exchange for the dismissal of a third bingo-related charge.
Five men whom White prosecuted were convicted of bingo or gambling charges. They are George Leonard Berry, Alva Ford Thompson, William H. Fields, James R. Fike and James Keator.
Berry and Thompson were fined $15,000 each, Fields $500, Fike $750 and Keator $200. White said collection of these fines "would just about repay the state for all my expenses."
Berry and Thompson also received two-year prison sentences.
White's bill was one of the largest ever submitted by a Virginia special prosecutor, according to Roger Baldwin, executive secretary of the Virginia Supreme Court. Baldwin added that White, who was appointed last April 21, has served longer than any other special prosecutor in the state.
White's hourly fee of $50, a figure negotiated by him and former Chief Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Franklin P. Backus, is considered low by some other Virginia lawyers. These lawyers say others often charge $100 or more an hour for courtroom work and $65 an hour for pre-trial work.
Last month a second special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the charge that Cowhig solicited a sexual favor from the wife of a criminal defendant-a charge Cowhig denies.
The $35,000 charged by White was the only expenditure in the year-long proceedings that was not already a part of the budgets of various law enforcement agencies.
Alexandria Police Chief Charles T. Strobel made what he called a conservative estimate that $70,000 went to pay the eight police officers who worked on the investigation. That sum would have been paid them no matter what case they had been working on.
Virginia State police spent about $30,000 in salaries for investigators Coy Ivy and Thomas Deavers, Ivy said.
The jury that heard the first Cowhig case, in which he was acquitted of asking for and receiving $32,000 in bribes from a bingo operator, cost the taxpayers $1,008 for seven days of service. The jury at the second trial, in which he was acquitted of organizing and helping run an illegal bingo game, cost a total of $576 in jury fees for the four-day trial.
Jurors are paid $12 a day, according to Frederick Jackson, clerk of the Alexandria Circuit Court.