A federal judge yesterday dismissed Alexandria Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel's $1.4 million libel suit against five people, saying his court did not have jurisdiction over the case. Strobel's lawyer immediately said he will refile the case in a state court.
The case is one of three lawsuits growing out of allegations over Strobel's handling of a 1984 drug investigation in Alexandria. A special grand jury said it found no criminal wrongdoing by Strobel and praised his supervision of the police force.
Several of the principals in the investigation sued Strobel and others and he responded with a countersuit. Yesterday lawyers involved in the dispute said they had had discussions this week about an out-of-court settlement, but had failed to reach an agreement.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Williams said he was dismissing Strobel's countersuit against police officers Joseph Morrash and Morton Ford, former Alexandria police officers Charles Cox and Louis Pugh and lawyer Mary Craig without prejudice.
The suit charged that the five defendants conspired to spread "a packet of false, scandalous, malicious and defamatory rumors" about Strobel when they alleged that he mishandled the drug investigation. His suit, which was filed two days after the special grand jury found allegations against him "baseless and unfounded," was a counterclaim to a civil rights suit filed in federal court by Morrash, Cox and Ford against Strobel and the City of Alexandria.
That suit, which asks $850,000 in damages, charges Strobel with "abuse of office" for his own personal and political ends. The suit was not dismissed by Williams.
Philip J. Hirschkop, a lawyer representing police Lt. John Stedman who has also sued Morrash and Cox for defamation in Alexandria Circuit Court, said yesterday he received a settlement offer, but turned it down.
Meanwhile, lawyers in the cases yesterday quibbled over who should be the first to give a deposition in the case -- Morrash or Strobel.
After he left the bench, Williams took out a quarter and told Morrash's attorney, James M. Saunders, to "Call it."
"Tails," Saunders said. The coin landed heads up. Williams told the lawyers, "See how scientific I am," and retreated to his chambers.