A federal judge in Virginia has freed Washington lawyer William A. Borders from a bribery-related charge but the Justice Department described the action as a "technical maneuver."
The department said it will ask a federal grand jury in Miami to reinstate the charge.
In a separate development, sources said Borders yesterday stepped aside temporarily from his position on the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission pending resolution of the allegations against him. The seven-member panel recommends candidates for judgeships in the city to the president.
Borders, 42, was arrested on Oct. 9 at an Arlington motel and accused of accepting $150,000 from an undercover FBI agent in an alleged bribery scheme involving U.S. District Judge Alcee Hastings in Miami.
The decision to drop the charge followed a hearing Friday in Alexandria during which District Judge Oren R. Lewis angrily refused to grant the government extra time to present evidence to a grand jury here. Lewis accused Justice of "trifling" with the court after a Justice lawyer, Reid Weingarten, told the judge he could not guarantee the government would decide to seek Borders' indictment in Virginia.
District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. approved dismissal of the charge in an order signed Tuesday.
Justice said in a sworn statement filed in Alexandria this week that a Florida grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case since before Borders' arrest. Hastings has not been charged, but has left the bench temporarily, saying he is a target of the investigation.
Borders, who had been free on $25,000 bond, received court permission shortly after his arrest to travel to Miami for three days to hire a lawyer, according to court documents. Borders' Washington attorney, John A. Shorter Jr., said in the court papers the trip was necessary because his client might face indictment there.
Sources close to the judicial nomination panel said Borders sent a letter yesterday to Frederick Abramson, chairman of the commission, saying he was stepping aside pending resolution of the allegations. Borders said he believed the move would help maintain the integrity of the panel and its public image, the sources said.