Dennis Sobin, outspoken publisher of the Washington newspaper Free Spirit and a frequent political candidate, was convicted last night by an Arlington County Circuit Court jury of conspiring to pander in connection with an escort service he founded in Washington.

Sobin was given until Oct. 5 to pay a $1,000 fine.

Sobin, 40, who faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, wiped tears from his eyes after the verdict. "I consider it an outstanding victory," he said. "I just felt that I was right and I pursued it." He said he will appeal.

Assistant prosecutor Liam O'Grady said in court yesterday that Sobin's Mais Oui escort service, which operates out of the District, was designed to make money for Sobin by setting up clients with "escorts" who often performed sexual acts for money.

Sobin, who in court called Mais Oui "the old version of the kissing booth to raise money" testified yesterday that the service's activities were not illegal.

"The client was purchasing the time and company of the escort," he said. Sobin, who spoke calmly and freely throughout yesterday's proceedings, said that, "Anyone involved in Mais Oui had to believe that this was a totally legal -- not only legal but harmless -- way of providing funds."

"I do consider myself a model citizen," he said.

In testimony Monday, several employes of Mais Oui described meeting clients in Arlington homes where they engaged in various sexual acts for pay. Sobin testified yesterday that during July the service, which employed about 35 escorts, earned about $5,000 a week.

O'Grady claimed in closing arguments that Sobin founded Mais Oui for personal profit. "We're dealing with a man who I think had one overreaching, overriding motive in all of this, and that was to make money," O'Grady said.

Sobin's attorney, James Lowe, countered that the service's profits were funneled to political causes and that Sobin and others involved in the business had no criminal intent.

"What did he conspire to do if he conspired to do anything?" Lowe asked the jury in his closing arguments. "He conspired to set up a fund-raising organization for his own political movement. There isn't a scintilla of evidence that he conspired to profit personally."

Lowe repeated Sobin's frequent claim that he is being harassed by Arlington County police and prosecutors.

Sobin has published numerous critical articles about the Arlington County police vice unit and about Commonwealth's Attorney Henry Hudson, whom he has called "the demented D.A."

"The name Dennis Sobin is synonymous with harassment in Washington," Sobin said in court yesterday. Hudson has declined to comment on the allegations of harassment.

Lowe maintained that Sobin has been persecuted for holding unpopular political views. "He's a man who takes on issues and the issues he has chosen to take on are not very popular."