Two jurors hearing the bribery and conspiracy case against bar owner Tommy M. Motlagh in U. S. District Court were dismissed yesterday when it was disclosed that Motlagh had given one of them a ride to court.
The disclosure was made in court yesterday morning after juror Nancy Strader approached a U.S. Marshal about the incident. No mistrial was declared, and the incident is not expected to affect the outcome of the proceedings.
Strader told Judge Charles Richey that Motlagh had offered her a ride to court Monday morning when the two happened to meet near the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum on their way to the trial.
She said she had been on foot, attempting to cross the street, when Motlagh apparently recognized her, stopped his car and offered to drive her the few blocks across the Mall to the courthouse.
She said that when she got into the car, Motlagh, who is charged with bribing former city licensing officials Robert C. Lewis and James E. Boardley, joked: "I'm certainly not going to offer you a bribe."
During the brief drive to the courthouse, Strader said, she and the defendant discussed the weather and "the possibility we lived in the same neighborhood."
She said she considered Motlagh's offer "a courtly gesture to rescue a woman who was in a rush and obviously late." Richey dismissed her, as well as a second juror, Granville Smith II, to whom Strader had related the story over lunch on Monday. They were replaced by two alternate jurors.
Motlagh's attorney, D.C. Bar Association president-elect Jacob Stein, acknowledged in court that he discussed the incident with Motlagh on the day it happened. But he did not then report the incident to Richey.
Asked by a reporter yesterday why he had not told the judge about the incident, Stein declined to comment, saying only, "You'd have to know the whole story."
Both Strader and Smith had been serving on one of two separate juries hearing evidence in the case. A second jury has been empaneled to hear evidence against Lewis, former chairman of the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control board, and Boardley, former ABC staff director.
The former officials are charged with allegedly offering Motlagh a license for a liquor store in Hechinger Mall in exchange for a share of the store's profits.
Boardley, who took the stand in his defense yesterday, acknowledged lying to FBI agents in February last year about a trip he and Lewis took with Motlagh to an Atlantic City casino.
Boardley and Lewis took the gambling trip in October 1980 while a protest against Motlagh's Northwest Washington go-go club, The Godfather, was being considered by the ABC. Boardley said he knew that Motlagh, as a preferred customer at the casino, received free rooms, meals and drinks at the Resorts International Hotel.
Boardley acknowledged telling FBI agents later that he and Lewis had stayed at a Best Western hotel on that trip, charging it to their own American Express cards.
Boardley and Lewis allegedly spent several months trying to obtain for Motlagh a lease for a liquor store in Hechinger Mall and guaranteeing he would receive a license to operate there.
Boardley acknowledged making statements describing an arrangement in which he and Lewis would profit from the store. He testified that the statements, some of which were secretly recorded, were part of an elaborate fabrication he and Lewis devised to convince a Hechinger leasing agent that Motlagh could be trusted.
Hechinger executive Daniel Russell has testified that as part of a federal probe, he pretended to want a share of the liquor store. Boardley disputed Russell's testimony about several meetings and phone calls. He also disputed testimony from other Hechinger officials, his secretary, his deputy staff director and a liquor store owner.
Prosecutors contend that as part of the alleged arrangement with Motlagh, Boardley purposely delayed hearings on another liquor store license, forcing the store's owner to unload the license to Motlagh for $5,000 in cash.
Boardley testified that he did not know until later that Motlagh intended to buy the license. In a phone conversation taped with Russell two weeks before Boardley said he learned of the sale, however, Boardley described the forthcoming sale and how it was to occur.