U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Williams said in a closed hearing last week that four people who accused Alexandria Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel of misconduct in connection with a 1984 drug investigation "were involved in sort of a political crusade because they had differences with other factions of city government . . . ," according to court records obtained yesterday.
Williams' comments came Wednesday during a pretrial hearing in connection with a lawsuit filed against Strobel by three of his accusers. An official in Williams' chambers provided a transcript of the hearing to Strobel's attorneys, who made it available to The Washington Post yesterday.
The judge's remarks echoed an opinion in February of a special grand jury that investigated the allegations against Strobel. The grand jury found no evidence of wrongdoing by the public safety director and blasted unnamed City Council members for "callous, politically motivated" actions that attempted to damage Strobel's reputation.
Mayor Charles E. Beatley and council member Donald C. Casey had called for an independent investigation into the allegations against Strobel made by police officers Joseph Morrash and Morton Ford, former police detective Charles Cox and attorney Mary Craig. Beatley and Casey called for Strobel's suspension only a few days before the grand jury released its report Feb. 27.
Williams made his comments during a hearing in which he ruled that lawyers for Strobel could have a tape recording of a conversation on Oct. 17 involving Morrash, Cox, Ford and Craig. Lawyers for the four had sought to block release of the recording, saying that as a conversation involving the three men and Craig it was protected.
"I have no difficulty," Williams said, "in determining that there was no legal problem common to these three individuals that needed the services of a lawyer, nor was a formal attorney/client relationship ever created at that time."
An effort to create such a relationship "was just a very thinly disguised attempt to do something that would permit them to marshal information to use in their political crusade and not to solve any legal problem at all," Williams said.
" . . . Because of the happening of certain things on an intramural basis in the city of Alexandria . . . these three individuals and Mrs. Craig were involved in sort of a political crusade because they had differences with other factions of city government that had erupted in ways each of them were individually affected by it.
"I happen to have heard enough of this case now to believe that the greatest resolution of it that could ever occur would be for the maximum amount of daylight and air to hit it," Williams added.
Morrash, Cox and Ford filed a $700,000 suit against Strobel and the city of Alexandria on Jan. 30 accusing Strobel of using his office to serve his own "personal and political ends" and violating their civil rights by the way he operates the police force.
Strobel responded with a $1.3 million suit against the three men, Craig, former Alexandria police officer Louis Pugh, and Alexandria Port Packet reporter and editor Alicia Mundy. Mundy later was dropped from the countersuit, which was thrown out of federal court on April 5 because Williams said the court had no jurisdiction.
Strobel's attorneys said they will refile that suit in Alexandria Circuit Court. Morrash, Cox, Ford, Craig and their attorneys could not be reached for comment yesterday.