Defense lawyers for Washington attorney William A. Borders Jr., who is accused of negotiating a $150,000 bribe for a federal judge, called a series of character witnesses today to testify to Borders' reputation for honesty and integrity.
After prosecutors wrapped up their case this morning, attorney John A. Shorter Jr. waived his right to make an opening statement laying out the defense case for the jury.
Instead he began calling a string of character witnesses, including former Howard Law School dean Charles T. Duncan and William Lucy, the international secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Both Duncan and Lucy sit with Borders on the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission, which helps select judges for the District's trial and appellate courts.
Benjamin D. Brown, the former deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who has known Borders since their days together at Howard Law School and Geraldine (Geri) Thompson, the executive director of Atlanta's Voter Education Project, who met Borders two years ago at a White House luncheon, also testified today.
Brown told the jury that Borders, whom he described as a "very important member of my team," was a member of a campaign finance committee for former president Jimmy Carter and that over $1 million was raised under his leadership.
"I don't think that there was any question about Mr. Borders' integrity," Brown testified, adding later: "I think Bill is a very honest person."
Under cross-examination by Justice Department lawyer Robert I. Richter, Brown and the other character witnesses for Borders each said they were unaware of the prosecution evidence against Borders, including several secret tape recordings.
The government contends that Borders and Hastings conspired to take the $150,000 in bribe money from convicted racketeers Frank Romano and his brother Thomas, both of whom were convicted and sentenced in Hastings' courtroom. In exchange for the payoff, the prosecution contends that Hastings returned $845,000 that had been forfeited by the Romanos and that he intended to reduce three-year prison terms he had imposed on them.
Borders, who is being tried separately from Hastings, allegedly accepted a $25,000 downpayment from an undercover agent posing as Romano last Sept. 19 and was arrested on Oct. 9 at an Arlington motel, where the government alleges he had gone to meet the agent to pick up the remaining $125,000 in bribe money.
In other developments yesterday, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. attorney Patricia G. Williams, who said she and Hastings plan to marry, testified for the defense that FBI agents located Hastings at her home the night that Borders was arrested.
Williams testified that Hastings willingly cooperated with FBI agents who interviewed him for three hours at her home. She told the jury that she is helping the Hastings' defense team and that their marriage plans are delayed for now because of "this dilemma."
During cross-examination by Justice Department lawyer Reid Weingarten, Williams testified that she told an FBI agent on Oct. 9 that her marriage to Hastings was delayed then because "the judge had a financial debt of $500 per month which he wanted to get rid of prior to any marriage plans."