Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Anne M. Burford was cleared yesterday of a charge of being drunk in public when an Arlington County judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict her.
Burford was charged at 12:50 a.m. Sept. 21, several hours after her husband Robert F. Burford was arrested by a Virginia state trooper on charges of driving while intoxicated and refusing to take a breath test. Robert Burford, director of the Bureau of Land Management in the Interior Department, is scheduled to appear in Arlington General District Court April 3.
"It is all very unfortunate, and I am extremely grateful that justice has been done," Anne Burford said after the proceeding. She did not testify in court but said afterward that she had had two drinks and a full dinner the evening of her arrest.
"I felt the elements of the offense were present and that we had shown them beyond a reasonable doubt," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Wasowicz. "Obviously, the judge did not agree."
General District Court Judge Eleanor S. Dobson made the ruling after hearing evidence from four police officers testifying for the prosecution in a combative 1 1/2-hour proceeding.
Defense attorneys Louis Koutoulakos and Plato Cacheris snapped to their feet to register frequent objections as Wasowicz questioned the state trooper who arrested Robert Burford and the Arlington police officers who arrested Anne Burford.
At one point, Koutoulakos pursued his objections so vigorously that when Dobson finally ruled that Wasowicz could ask his question, the prosecutor said, "I forgot what the question was."
The officers testified that Anne Burford was loud and argumentative that night, and three of them said they could smell alcohol on her. She was not given a breath test, Wasowicz said.
Trooper James H. Hampton, who arrested Robert Burford, said that "anything I asked her husband, she interrupted. Anything I had to say, she had something to say back . . . . I asked him to say his ABCs; she said, 'You don't have to say that.' I asked him to count from 100 to 80 backwards; she said, 'You don't have to do that.' "
Arlington police Cpl. David Green said he was called to the front lobby of the police station that night to speak with Anne Burford. "She told me her husband was being illegally detained; she told me she was an attorney," he said.
"She had a rather strong odor of alcoholic beverage about her; she was rather irate," Green added.
Officer E.T. Taylor, who said he had been called to assist in handcuffing Burford, described her as "very excited and very hostile."
Koutoulakos, in a motion to strike the prosecutors' evidence and throw out the charge, maintained that Burford's behavior stemmed from concern about her husband, who had recently recovered from surgery, and from the naturally combative tendencies of a lawyer.
"She was acting like an attorney and like a concerned wife," Koutoulakos said.
In any case, he said, the odor of alcohol does not constitute intoxication under Virginia law.
"Put any language you want on it -- she might have been obstreperous, she might have been concerned about her husband, but"She was acting like an attorney and like a concerned wife." -- defense attorney Louis Koutoulakos there is no evidence to prove she was drunk in public . . . . All we have here, your honor, was an irate woman."
"Based on the evidence this court has heard, I grant the motion to strike," Dobson said.
Had Burford been convicted of the charge, she would have faced a maximum $100 fine.