A U.S. District Court jury, which is about to deliberate bribery and conspiracy charges against former D.C. Superior Court judge Robert H. Campbell, yesterday heard prosecution and defense lawyers describe the case as either "justice corrupted" by greed or simply business as usual in a city court where judges routinely used their discretion in handling traffic cases.
A full day of closing arguments yesterday capped seven weeks of testimony from more than 10 witnesses in the first case in this city in which a former judge has been accused of committing illegal acts while he was a member of the bench. Campbell, who sat restlessly at the defense table yesterday while the jury heard the arguments, abruptly retired from the bench for medical disability in 1978 after six years on the court.
Campbell, who is charged with trading his judicial influence in traffic court for close to $10,000 in cash and goods and services from a Maryland firm, did not take the witness stand to testify during the trial. But the defense denied that Campbell had ever received any payoffs in exchange for favorable treatment of the Bladensburg construction firm over tickets issued for its overweight trucks.
Yesterday, Campbell's lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, offered no explanation why Campbell did not testify. But he reminded the jury that it is the government's burden to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt and that the defense could have remained totally silent.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John, P. Hume recounted the evidence that the governemet contends proves that Campbell took cash, goods and services from the firm.
Campbell had a tough "pay-or-stay" policy for most defendents, meaning traffic fines were paid immediately or else the defendant was sent to jail, Hume told the jury. Hume recalled testimony from one of Campbell's former law clerks who said his last job each day was to count up the defendants in the court cellblock and then try to persuade the judge to let them go.
"Pay, pay, pay, that's all he's talking about," Hume said, referring to a transcript of a court proceeding before Campell. But, the government contends, that policy did not apply to Excavation Construction Inc., which accumulated large numbers of tickets citing overweight trucks, but "walked" out of court without paying fines.
Hume attacked the testimony of witnesses who were called to support the defense contention that there was debate among judges about how overweight laws were enforced and whether such cases should be prosecuted. In particular, Hume said, former Superior Court judge Charles W. Halleck testified that he routinely decided against imposing fines in overweight cases because he thought the law was unfairly enforced.
The prosecutor called Halleck a "disgrace to the bench" for refusing to enforce the law, and urged the jury to disregard his testimony because Halleck "didn't know what he was talking about in this case."
A crucial element in the prosecution case is the testimony of Robert Payne Jenkins, a former Excavation Construction official, who told the jury that he made cash payoffs to Campbell from 1975 to 1977. To back up that testimony, the government presented financial evidence, taken from Campbell's bank records, to show unexplained cash deposits during that period.
Throughout the trial, defense lawyers have criticized both those elements, and have asserted that Jenkins' testimony as a hostile witness for the government was often vague and became even more uncertain during cross-examiniation by defense lawyer Arnold M. Weiner.
Weiner, who represents Excavation Construction's general manager, Larry A. Campbell (no relation to the judge), told the jury that the government had only "fancy rhetoric" and no proof in the trial record to support its charge that bribes were paid and that Larry Campbell caused the bribes to be made.
Recounting Jenkins' testimony during cross-examination, Weiner reminded the jury that Jenkins had acknowledged that the money he said he withdrew from his company for payoffs to the judge could have been money he used for his own expenses, including trips to the Bahamas where the company kept a boat.
Weiner, who like prosecutor Hume briskly flipped through poster board charts and trial transcript during his closing argument, said Jenkins was a man living a double life, in part using company money to support an illicit love affair.
When former judge Campbell's lawyer, Mundy, stood up to address the jury, he told them he would avoid the charts and transcript and instead wanted to "reason" with them and "talk to them." Throughout Mundy's argument, which continued for an hour, the former judge appeared to be distracted frequently.
Mundy insisted that defense evidence had countered the government's claim that unexplained cash deposits in the former judge's bank accounts coincided with withdrawals Jenkins made from company accounts.
Mundy told the jury that the evidence showed Campbell had numerous sources for cash, including his wife's annuity check, his own salary as a part-time law professor and cash loans from longtime friends who lent him money and testified to that in court. Those witnesses included Bishop Walter (Sweet Daddy) McCollough, who said he lent Campbell $5,000 in cash.
Hume told the jury yesterday that the government's evidence showed that Campbell needed the bribe money because he was spending more than he earned as a "public servant."
Mundy also charged that the govenment had failed to bring in a single witness to support its allegation that Campbell had a "pay-or-stay" policy, although the government contends testimony from the judge's former law clerk and courtroom clerk supports that contention.
Former judge Campbell, Larry Campbell and the construction company itself are all on trial on charges of bribery, conspiracy and racketeering. The jury of eight women and four men is expected to get the case today.