The federal jury deliberating for a third day in the bribery and conspiracy trial of former D.C. Superior Court judge Robert H. Campbell was sequestered yesterday following published reports in which Campbell attacked the government's case against him and said he was a victim of a "vendetta."
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Flannery ordered that "in the interest of justice" the jurors be housed in a local hotel, under supervision of deputy U.S. marshals, when they leave the courthouse to shield them from publicity about the case until they reach a verdict.
Yesterday, when questioned by Flannery, the jurors indicated that none of them had read or heard anything about the case yesterday. To avoid influencing the jury, Flannery did not specifically ask about news articles Saturday which recounted a long, rambling discussion former judge Campbell had late Friday with two newspaper reporters, a courtroom artist and two unidentified men in the same courtroom where he stood trial for seven weeks. The jury was not in the courtroom at the time.
Yesterday, at the government's request, Flannery agreed that the jury be sequestered for the remainder of the case. In open court, Flannery told the jurors only that the news articles "may have a prejudicial impact."
Afterward, the jury resumed its deliberations but retired for the evening at 6 p.m. without reachin a verdict. When Flannery asked jury foreman Patricia Moton if the jurors expected to reach a verdict in a short period of time she responded, "yes," clearly indicating that the panel, which began considering the case Thursday, is not deadlocked. Deliberations are scheduled to resume today at 2 p.m.
On Friday, prosecution and defense attorneys who wandered into the courtroom while Campbell was talking to the news reporters, seemed stunned that the former judge, who did not testify at the trial, was suddenly willing to make public statements about the charges against him.
The lawyers greatest concern at this stage of the case is that the jury, in the middle of its deliberations after seven weeks of trial, would come across statements by Campbell in the press or on radio or television that could influence their verdict or cause a mistrial.
During a conference in Flannery's chambers early yesterday, assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Hume said that the incident Friday was an "outrage" and was "tantamount to jury tampering,"according to court records.
". . . We tried our case in the courtroom and we expect the case to be consistent with the evidence in the courtroom, and not unsworn press conferences,"Hume told Flannery, referring to Campbell's discussion with news reporters. It was unclear yesterday why Campbell decided to speak publicly.
Former judge Campbell and Larry A. Campbell (no relation to the judge) who is the general manager of Excavation Construction Inc. and the firm itself are each charged with conspiracy, bribery, and racketeering. The government contends that Campbell accepted close to $10,000 in cash and goods and services from the construction firm in exhcange for favorable treatment on thousands of dollars worth of overweight truck tickets issued to the company's dump trucks.
Published reports of Campbell's statements said that Campbell seemed resigned that he would be convicted of the charges against him. Campbell also said that he had been "hurt" by "vicious lies" and that he thought he was subject to a government "vendetta."
Court record indicates that the government was particularly upset that Campbell, without testifying at trial under oath and without facing questions from the prosecutors, had managed to get his side of the case before the public -- and possibly before the jury.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol E. Bruce told Flannery that even if the jurors had not seen accounts of the discussions in Saturday's local newspapers, if they were not immediately sequestered they might still learn about it from friends or relatives. "we just can't take any chances," Bruce said.
". . . Judge Campbell is a lawyer, he was a judge; he knows the wrong committed by him," Bruce said in a reference to Campbell's public statements in the middle of jury deliberations. Bruce suggested that Flannery personally speak to Campbell about it, but Flannery declined, commenting that if Campbell spoke out again it would make no difference since the jurors are now sequestered.