Virginia Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman said yesterday that efforts by the Arlington County prosecutor to have him investigated by a special grand jury are nonsense and a misuse of the grand jury system.
Furthermore, said Coleman, if a grand jury investigates him, it should also investigate the prosecutor, Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney William S. Burroughs.
And, Coleman said, a special prosecutor should be called in to advise the grand jury instead of having Burroughs do it himself, as would normally be the case. A special grand jury, he said, would investigate matters involving Burroughs, and if Burroughs continued in his role as adivser to the grand jury there would be a conflict of interest.
Burroughs, a Democrat, asked Arlington Circuit Court Judge Charles H. Duff on Tuesday to appoint a special grand jury to investigate the Republican attorney general as well as the state police.
It was the second time this year that Burroughs has asked for a special grand jury investigation of why Coleman ordered a state police investigation in connection with Burroughs' handling of a controversial double-murder case.
The first time, a majority of the grand jurors refused to serve on the panel.
This time, the judge is considering Burroughs' request as well as Coleman's two-page motion filed yesterday calling for the special prosecutor and the broadening of the investigation to include Burroughs.
Burroughs, who appeared both irritated and amused by Coleman's motion, said, "Methinks thou [the attorney general] dost protest too much." Burroughs said that he thought the attorney general's request was "premature" because the judge has yet to rule on whether a special grand jury should even be impaneled for such a purpose.
Coleman, however, said in his motion filed yesterday that "commonwealth attorney William Burroughs has made repeated attempts to secure a copy of the confidential state police report concerning the investigation of him. These activities [the request for a special grand jury] appear designed to discover confidential information for personal reasons."
"I'm not asking him for the report," Burroughs said, "I know what is in the report and I don't care about that. What I care about is the process by which these investigations get going. It makes you think that there's something wrong in Richmond."
In Richmond yesterday, Coleman aide Anson Franklin said that Coleman ordered the state police probe of Burroughs handling of the celebrated case involving Richard Lee Earman, a Northern Virginia real estate salesman accused of murdering a young Arlington couple in 1977, because there was "a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct." The investigation, Franklin added, was "properly conducted by the state police."
Burroughs said he has requested a special grand jury, which has subpoena powers but cannot return indictments because Coleman has refused to tell him why the probe was ordered.
The investigation of Burroughs occurred afte Arlington Police officers and others complained to Gov. John N. Dalton that Burroughts was interfering in the Earman murder investigation and refused to prosecute a suspect in the case.
Burroughs said that the three-month probe by the state police that cleared him of criminal misconduct charges "appeared" to be illegally conducted" and might represent "abuse of power" by Coleman.
In the motion filed yesterday, Coleman said that the state police report "has not been disclosed to Commonwealth Attorney Burroughs or anyone else in order to protect the identity of witnesses and the reputation of those under investigation."