Alexandria lawyer James I. Burkhardt charged with conspiring to "buy protection" for a Washington area prostitution ring, yesterday lost an attempt to have charges against him dismissed in a stormy hearing in federal court.
Chief defense lawyer Kenneth Michael Robinson locked in spirited and testy verbal exchanges with Judge Oren R. Lewis throughout the hearing and unveiled key parts of Burkhardt's expected defense. Robinson said that his client, a former president of the Alexandria Bar Association, only provided legal advice to convicted massage parlor king Louis Michael Parish. p
When Robinson tried to attack the government's case on the grounds that the indictment against Burkhardt was too vague, Robinson met strong resistance from Lewis, who called the lawyer's arguments "ill-advised." s
"You're honor . . . I can probably state the basis for my motions better than you can, with all due respect," replied Robinson, a Washington lawyer, who showed a willingness to debate the crusty outspoken 77-year-old jurist.
"I understand you've got quite a reputation and you've come over here to show this court a lot of things," Lewis said in a stern voice. "If I were you, I wouldn't get too far out ofline."
Robinson, who wore Western-style boots and a light-colored suit, replied, "I'm not going to lie to you. I'm not going to try to fool you."
"You're not going to fool me," the judge shot back.
The government is alleging that Parrish regularly paid Burkhardt money "in addition to" legal fees and that the two men conspired to bribe unnamed public officials in order to allow Parrish to operate a $1 million-a -year prostitution ring based in Alexandria. Burkhardt is also charged with two counts of violating federal racketeering laws for allegedly causing Parrish employes to transfer profits derived from the prostitution ring's Washington operation into Alexandria from Washington.
"Burkhardt acted as a lawyer," defense lawyer Robinson said. "He didn't do anything criminal." Robinsonalso indicated that he will attempt to discredit the testimony of Parrish, whom he called a "known liar," if Parrish testifies for the government atBurkhardt's trial. Parrish, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator inthe three-count indictment, testified before the grand jury that indicted Burkhardt.
Parrish was sentenced last April to five years in federal prison after being convicted on racketeering and prostitution charges. He is appealing.
Robinson also raised the name of former Alexandria prosecutor William L. Cowhig, who has been one of the subjects of the ongoing corruption probe in Alexandria. Robinson previously had told reporters the government is trying to use the indictment to forceBurkhardt to testify against Cowhig, who resigned a year ago after being acquitted on charges related to illegal bingo operations.
"So, Mr. Parrish is not going to say that cash was funneled to Mr. Cowhig?" Robinson asked in courtyesterday.
Judge Lewis replied that the government didn't have to prove bribery. It simply has to show that Parrish andBurkhardt intended to make payoffs Lewis said.
"If you don't know what's relevant toa conspiracy charge," the judge said "I'm sorry I can't teach you thislate in your life."
From 1974 to 1978, Burkhardt instructed Parrish employes on how to avoid prosecution for illegal activities, withhold information and lie to officials to protect the operation, according to the indictment.
When Burkhardt, 49, tried to represent himself and assist Robinson, Judge Lewis refused to allow it.
Burkhardt's trial is scheduled to begin March 31.