William S. Burroughs Jr., chief Arlington County prosecutor, has sued The Washington Post and The Washington Star for $1 million each, contending that recent news coverage has damaged his reputation.
The libel suits, filed in Arlington County Circuit Court, charge that articles published by The Post and The Star included, "false, misleading and defamatory statements" about Burroughs. Many of the news stories cited in the two suits centered on the prosecutor's handling of a controversial murder case involving a former real estate agent, Richard Lee Earman.
In the lawsuits, the Arlington commonwealth's attorney asserted that The Post and The Star had acted "maliciously" or "with reckless disregard" for the accuracy of their news stories. He alleged that the news accounts had falsely portrayed him as unfit for office and lacking in integrity.
Officials for The Post and The Star declined yesterday to comment on the libel suits.
Burroughs, a Democrat who is seeking reelection in November, has complained repejtedly of what he termed "consistently inaccurate reporting" during his campaign. After the libel suits were filed, Henry Hudson, Burrough's Republican-backed opponent, issued a statement, saying, "I question the propriety of filing a lawsuit concerning the subject matter of a pending criminal case."
In addition to The Post and The Star, Burroughs also named as defendants in his lawsuits, Washington Post Staff writer Sandra G. Boodman and three Star reporters -- Thomas Crosby, Charlie McCollum and Sue Mullin.
In his suit against The Post, Burroughs complained about several news stories in which Earman was reported to have been allowed to take a week's vacation in the Bahamas after pleading guilty to conspiring to murder an Arlington couple. Alan foreman and Donna Shoemaker. Earman is scheduled to be sentenced in October.
In his suit against The Star, Burroughs complained about articles describing a state police investigation of his initial handling of the murder case. A state police report was said by The Star to be "highly critical" of Burroughs. Burroughs was eventually cleared of criminal misconduct as a result of the state investigation.