Defense lawyers for former CIA agent Edwin P. Wilson had a temporary face-off last week with federal prosecutors, this time over Wilson's prison accommodations.

Wilson's lawyers, who said jail conditions were so "abominable" that Wilson was taking tranquilizers, accused the government of trying to coerce him into pleading guilty by making his life miserable.

It seems that the prosecutors, concerned about the cost of Wilson's housing, moved him to cheaper quarters in an undisclosed New York location ten days ago. Wilson's lawyers said their client's new home turned out to be a five-by-eight-foot cell with one light bulb, a bed, sink and toilet.

Wilson's room, according to lawyers Herald Price Fahringer and John A. Keats, had only a small slot for a window and the single light bulb "which remains on for 24 hours a day and is insufficient to permit him to even read." The lawyers also said that Wilson was in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, allowed out only when his fellow inmates were locked up.

Wilson, who is charged with illegally shipping explosives to Libya and conspiring to assassinate an anti-Qaddafi exile, couldn't even watch television or listen to the radio, his lawyers said.

All this, the lawyers said in their complaint to U.S. District Judge John H. Pratt, was designed to have a "coercive effect" on Wilson -- meaning a little encouragement to cop a plea. "The government is obviously dissatisified with his attitude and this is their way of leaning on him," Keats said as he filed the papers last Thursday.

Unbeknown to Keats, he was a day late. Wilson had been moved that Wednesday to roomier quarters and allowed to mingle with the general prison population.

Upon hearing that, Keats withdrew his motion. Federal prosecutors replied anyway, saying Wilson's brief stay in solitary was routine for newly transferred prisoners.