U.S. District Judge Oren R. Lewis angrily accused two federal prosecutors yesterday of making "a deliberate misstatement of fact" about one of his decisions in papers they filed with an appeals court.
"I never made the decision you said I made and, if I made it, I rescind it," the Alexandria Judge told assistant U.S. attorneys Joseph Fisher and Theodore Greenberg during a hearing.
The colorful and often outspoken Lewis told the two lawyers that they had made "an improper filing" with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and directed them to inform the higher court "in writing" of their error. Greenberg told Lewis the prosecutors would comply.
At issue is a ruling Lewis made last week in a complex criminal case involving bribery and tax evasion charges against Dr. Murdock Head, director of the Airlie Foundation of Warrenton, Va., and an affiliated department at George Washington University.
The prosecutors contended that when Lewis severed from a Sept. 10 trial a charge that Head had bribed Rep. Daniel J. Flood (D-Pa.) the judge had also dropped allegations contained in a separate conspiracy charge involving Flood and Head. Lewis said it was his intention that the conspiracy allegations be heard at the trial.
Initially the prosecutors contended yesterday that Lewis's ruling would prohibit them from brining into court any allegations regarding Flood during Head's first trial in September. Based on that understanding they said they had appealed Lewis's ruling to the appeals court in Richmond.
Lewis, in an unusual rebuke, described the prosecutors' action as "foolishness."
Lewis also rejected defense motions yesterday to dismiss or sever five of the 13-counts in the indictment against Head, who holds graduate degrees in dentistry, law and medicine.
The judge, who had hinted during previous court sessions that he might dismiss some of the counts, offered no explanation yesterday for his ruling. Defense lawyers had sought dismissal of allegation that Head offered a gratuity to a former Internal Revenue Service auditor on the grounds that the statute of limitations on that offense had expired.
Lewis had dismissed a separate indictment against the agent on those grounds, but yesterday refused to do the same for Head. Government lawyers are contesting his dismissal of the charges against the IRS officer in the appeals court.
Head, a well-known Washington figure is accused in the indictment of bribing Flood, former Flood aide Stephen Elko, and former U.S. Rep. Otto Passman (D-La.) in return for federal contracts which they allegedly directed to his foundation and George Washington University department. Head has pleaded innocent to the charges.