Dr. Murdock Head, the George Washington University professor serving a four-year sentence for bribery conspiracy, wants the federal court in Alexandria to reduce his sentence in exchange for performing community service 30 hours a week.
A lawyer for Head has asked the court to consider remarks made by the late U.S. District Judge Oren R. Lewis, who presided at Head's two trials. Lewis said he would consider changing Head's sentence to community service after all appeals were concluded, according to a motion filed last week by Arlington attorney Frank W. Dunham Jr. The court will hear arguments on it on Friday.
"It is our belief, based upon the remarks made by Judge Lewis, that the sentence would be modified substantially to allow for a greater period of community service than incarceration," the request said.
Eight officials, ranging from former Defense secretary Melvin R. Laird to the mayor of Warrenton, Va., wrote letters to the court saying they would support a community-service program for Head should his sentence be reduced or modified.
Head was convicted in 1979 of conspiring to bribe two influential House Democrats in the 1970s in exchange for a steady flow of government grants to the Airlie Foundation, which Head created as a tax-exempt charitable organization based at a conference center near Warrenton.
The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that conviction, but Head was convicted a second time at a retrial in 1981.
Dunham appealed the second conviction on the grounds that 2,470 remarks or questions that Lewis made during the trial denied Head a fair trial. The three-judge appeals panel, however, upheld the verdict.
Lewis, who presided over both trials and sentenced Head to four years in jail after the second, hinted that he would cut prison time if Head performed "worthwhile work" on the roots of violence among American youth. Lewis urged Head to study ways to "stop, slow down this horrible behavior of our juveniles."
"I'd rather see you spend most of it the prison term on the outside," Lewis told Head when he imposed the sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore S. Greenberg said the government will oppose Head's request that his sentence be reduced in exchange for community service.
"At best, it's nothing more than the community service he was doing before conviction," said Greenberg, reading from a four-page response he filed in federal court yesterday.
Greenberg said the letter submitted by former Defense secretary Laird "failed to identify Laird as a longtime friend of Head." He said Laird served as an Airlie Foundation board member and accepted a gift for his own foundation from Head.
"Additionally, after the initial conviction, Mr. Laird tried to convince the Department of Justice not to reprosecute Head," said Greenberg, reading from the response.
In the letter, typed on a George Washington University letterhead, Laird identified himself as a university trustee and said he hoped "Dr. Head's experience, dedication and expertise will not be allowed to languish when he has so much to offer to us all." Laird said Head, who was chief of a department in the university's medical school, has been affiliated with the institution for 30 years.
The request for a reduced sentence said the five months Head so far had served in prison "will constitute a significant and ample deterrent punishment" if coupled with a period of community service.
Reading from the government's response, Greenberg said Head's sentence "represents a fair balancing by Judge Lewis of the need for punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation. Head has presented no compelling reason why the court should reduce his sentence."