The acquittal Friday of a Florida federal judge on charges of conspiring to receive a bribe will have little impact on the status of Washington attorney William A. Borders Jr., who was convicted of the same charges by another jury in March.
The apparent contradiction--having two alleged conspirators but only one convicted of conspiracy--occurred because there were two juries in the case, Borders' attorney, John Shorter, said in an interview yesterday.
If Borders and U.S. District Court Judge Alcee L. Hastings had been tried together, Shorter said, "the jury would have been instructed that it can't convict one and not the other." But the split trials made the different verdicts possible.
Borders was convicted by a jury in Atlanta of conspiring with Hastings to solicit a $150,000 bribe from two brothers convicted in Hastings' court of racketeering.
According to court testimony an FBI agent pretending to be one of the brothers met with Borders to negotiate a return of forfeited assets in exchange for a bribe. Borders was arrested in October 1981 after a meeting with the agent at the Marriott Twin Bridges Hotel in Arlington.
The trials were separated, Shorter said, because "we felt the pretrial publicity" in the Miami area jeopardized Borders' chances for a fair trial. Hastings felt otherwise and insisted his trial be held there, Shorter said.
Shorter said that it would not have helped Borders to be tried with Hastings in Miami, since a major part of Hastings' defense was to say that Borders acted without Hastings' knowledge. Had there been a joint trial, Shorter said, "We would have been prosecuted by a codefendant . . . and we didn't need two prosecutors."
Although the outcome might seem illogical, there is no appeal for Borders based on the different verdicts, Shorter said. Shorter said he has ordered a transcript of the judge's trial to compare the testimony of prosecution witnesses and see if there might be inconsistencies that could form the basis for an appeal. "But we're fishing for a needle in a haystack," Shorter said, "and it might be there and it might not."
Meanwhile, Borders is free on personal bond pending an appeal to the Supreme Court on grounds that the trial judge in Atlanta erred in allowing certain evidence to be used against him during the trial. A federal appeals court in Atlanta turned down that appeal last December.
"Having been a lawyer, he Borders knows the prospects are dim" that the Supreme Court will hear, much less overturn, the conviction, Shorter said. Borders would begin serving a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $35,000 fine if the high court lets the verdict stand, Shorter said.