Washington lawyer William A. Borders Jr., convicted four months ago of conspiring with a U.S. judge to take a $150,000 bribe, was ordered to prison yesterday for refusing to testify before a Florida federal grand jury investigating another undisclosed criminal case.
U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges held Borders in contempt of court and told him to turn himself in to federal law enforcement officials in Miami on July 27. Borders can be held in jail until he agrees to testify or until Sept. 15, when the grand jury term expires.
At Borders' request Hodges agreed not to impose the penalty for six days so Borders could attend to family matters.
A federal jury in Atlanta had convicted Borders last March of conspiring with Miami U.S. District Court judge Alcee L. Hastings to take a cash bribe from a man he thought was Frank Romano, one of two brothers convicted of racketeering in Hastings' courtroom. In fact, the man was an undercover FBI agent.
Borders accepted $25,000 of front money from the agent in exchange for which, the government contended, Hastings returned money to the brothers that they had forfeited to the government, and later intended to reduce their sentences. Borders was a middleman in the scheme, the government said. Hastings has denied any wrongdoing.
Borders, a prominent local lawyer who was a member of the commission that helps selects local court judges, was sentenced in May to serve five years in jail and pay a $35,000 fine on his conviction. He is free on a $25,000 bond pending appeal of that case.
In June, a federal court judge had ordered Borders to testify before the grand jury, and granted him immunity from prosecution for any statements he made there.
Attorney John A. Shorter Jr., who represented Borders at his criminal trial, said that neither he nor Borders knew what the prosecution wanted him to testify about before the grand jury. At one point in yesterday's hearing, Shorter said he suspected that the probe might concern Santo Trafficante, an alleged organized crime figure in Florida, or the Romano brothers.
Shorter indicated that the government's demand for Borders' grand jury testimony might be an illegal effort to obtain more evidence against Hastings, who has not yet gone to trial. Moreover, Shorter said Borders was concerned that the grand jury probe might be based on evidence obtained through illegal electronic surveillance.
Justice Department lawyer Reid H. Weingarten said in open court that the current grand jury investigation was unrelated to the Hastings case, and that Borders had access to all electronic surveillance involving him.