U.S. District Judge Oren R. Lewis -- in the kind of courtroom outburst that has become his trademark -- accused federal prosecutors yesterday of trying to use him to turn a convicted drug dealer into a government informant.
"The DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] has no control over me. The government has no control over me," Lewis told federal prosecutors in a rising voice. "This court will not be used that way."
Lewis -- who will be 80 in October and whose verbal dramatics are legendary among lawyers in federal court in Alexandria -- announced during a hearing for a convicted drug dealer that he wanted his position understood in "indelible terms."
Defense attorney Stewart Economou had asked Lewis to reduce the 10-year sentence of Michael F. Tillery, convicted with four others in July 1979 of running a cocaine ring from The Representative, a fashionable Arlington condominium.
Assistant prosecutor Anthony Epstein opposed the move, telling Lewis that Tillery, who is in prison at Allenwood, Pa., has "adamantly refused" to cooperate with federal law enforcement officials on aspects of the cocaine ring's operations.
"I don't think he should be indebted to the DEA in perpetuity," Lewis interrupted. "I'm violently opposed to it. They [DEA] can have informants if they want them, they can hire them and pay them. You want me to drop a little hint that if he [Tillery] will talk a little, I'll listen a little. The answer is no!"
Lewis, who branded the Tillery case as "big league" with "Cadillac service," also sparred with Economou, drawing laughter from courtroom spectators.
"Remember," Economou said, "the court said [during trial] the ring wasn't as big as the government said it was."
"Well, they never are," Lewis retorted. "They can't all be the largest on the East Coast."
Later, Economou, pleading with the judge for leniency, noted that Tillery has been trained as a dental assistant while in prison and has "given comfort to others."
"Well," said Lewis drily, "if he spent more time in prison, he might come out a dentist."
Tillery is scheduled for parole on Nov. 22, 1982. Lewis took his motion for a reduced sentence under advisement.