A federal judge in Alexandria, rebuking Justice Department lawyers for "trifling with this court," yesterday denied a government request for more time to seek an indictment against a prominent Washington attorney accused in the attempted bribery of a federal judge in Miami.
Judge Oren R. Lewis angrily rejected the request after a Justice attorney told the judge he could not say whether the department ultimately would decide to prosecute the case in Virginia or in Florida.
"Now you're trifling with me," Lewis said gruffly in dismissing the motion. "You want to indict when you're in the mood to. You can't do that."
Lewis also accused the government of not wanting to come to trial too soon in Alexandria in order not to impede its investigation of the Miami federal judge, Alcee Hastings. "They don't want to expose their hand," Lewis observed.
Under the U.S. Speedy Trial Act, the government normally has 30 days from the date of an arrest in which to seek an indictment. The Justice Department, which also is presenting evidence in the case to a federal grand jury in Miami, had asked Lewis for a 15-day extension, claiming it needed the time to gather records and other evidence.
The latest development came one day after a magistrate in Alexandria ruled that there already was sufficient evidence in the case for prosecutors to seek an indictment here against William A. Borders Jr.
Borders, 42, a member of the D.C. commission that recommends selection of judges in the city, was arrested Oct. 9 by the FBI in the parking lot of an Arlington motel and charged with being a conduit for a $150,000 bribe to Hastings.
Borders, who attended yesterday's hearing, is free on $25,000 bond.
Authorities have charged Borders with interstate travel between Washington and Arlington and between Washington and Miami to further the alleged bribery scheme. Yesterday's arguments centered on whether Justice should be required to proceed promptly on the local portion of the charge.
Attorney Reid Weingarten of the Justice Department's public integrity section, which has made Hastings a target of its investigation, told Lewis that senior Justice officials have not yet decided where to seek Borders' indictment.
Borders' lawyer, John A. Shorter Jr., said the department has presented no evidence against Borders to a grand jury in the weeks since his arrest.
"There is no evidence of difficulty or complexity," Shorter told Lewis. "They have one FBI undercover agent -- that's all they need."
Borders is accused of accepting $25,000 from an undercover agent in Miami and of traveling on Oct. 9 from the District to Arlington to accept the $125,000 balance of the alleged bribe from the FBI agent.
Lewis agreed with Shorter, adding, "I don't think they Justice are used to our style here in Virginia," a reference to the court's reputation for refusing postponements and moving rapidly through its docket of cases.
If the government fails to indict Borders in Alexandria by Nov. 9, Lewis told Shorter, a defense motion to have the charge dismissed would be in order.