A judge on the U.S. Court of Military Appeals was listed yesterday as one of 16 people arrested by Fairfax County police on a felony charge of solicitation to commit sodomy. He was charged during a police operation conducted at three locations in the county.
The judge was identified as Albert B. Fletcher Jr., 59, one of three members of the civilian court that until this year functioned as the highest military court in the nation. Congress now permits the court's decisions to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Fletcher, a former state judge in Kansas and now an Alexandria resident, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at the Belle Haven Marina off the George Washington Parkway south of Alexandria, according to police. He was taken to the Fairfax County Jail in Fairfax City and released after posting a $1,000 bond.
Fletcher and 15 other men were charged with felony solicitation, which carries a penalty of one to five years in prison under Virginia law.
Fletcher could not be reached yesterday for comment. He was appointed to the military court in 1975 by President Ford and served as its chief judge from his appointment until 1980. His term expires May 1, 1986.
He was not at the court yesterday, according to his secretary. His attorney, Stephen R. Pickard, did not return calls made to his office.
Federal judges are subject to impeachment by Congress and can be removed from office "by the president, upon notice and hearing, for neglect of duty or malfeasance in office, or for mental or physical disability, but for no other cause."
The arrests by Fairfax police at men's restrooms at Springfield Mall, George Mason Regional Library in Annandale and the Belle Haven Marina came in the fourth such undercover operation this year aimed at stopping public homosexual activity.
Police describe the problem as an ongoing and intractable one in malls and public facilities, and say their operation came in response to complaints. Police have made of 59 arrests this year in such undercover operations.
In the undercover operations, officers circulate through the bathrooms, permit themselves to be propositioned and suggest to those who solicit them that they go to a nearby parking lot, where the suspects are arrested.
Police actions have been sharply criticized by defense attorneys and gay activists. "There is an incredible opportunity for police abuse in these operations," said Thomas DePriest, founder of the Virginia Gay Alliance and an attorney. "Police do things in these kind of cases which constitute entrapment in the legal sense."
Capt. Stephen D. Danzig, commander of the Fairfax vice and narcotics squad, said his officers did not trap anyone during the undercover operations. He said under the law officers are permitted to initiate contact and conversation with suspects, but the individuals must verbally solicit the officers before an arrest is made.
Police spokesman Sgt. Philip Lively said the arrests were made in an effort to "discourage these kinds of activities in public places."