Former UDC president Robert L. Green admitted yesterday during questioning by a government prosecutor that when he left the official university residence in November 1985 he took with him a projection television and a stereo system that did not belong to him, but said he was serving only as the "custodian" of the items.
Green's admissions came during a tense day of questioning that was marked by repeated rebukes by U.S. District Judge Norma H. Johnson, who at one point recessed the trial and lectured Green at the bench for nearly 10 minutes about his courtroom behavior.
Johnson's unusual step of reprimanding the former university president came after he repeatedly questioned her rulings, challenged the government prosecutor to ask different questions, accused the prosecutor of trying to mislead him and asked his own questions from the witness stand.
"Excuse me," Johnson interrupted Green once. "You may not ask questions. I have told you that at least four times today," the judge said.
"I make the rulings in this court," Johnson said later, interrupting Green as he told Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Bernstein to ask a different question.
"This attorney does not have to ask questions the way you want him to ask them or the way your own attorney would ask them," Johnson said.
Green has been on trial for the past week on charges of fraud, theft and five counts of lying to a federal grand jury investigating expenditures from special accounts controlled by Mayor Marion Barry.
The allegations center on a $1,399 Sansui stereo system and a $1,994.90 Hitachi large-screen television that were paid for with funds from the mayor's special accounts.
Green, who was forced out as president of the University of the District of Columbia in August 1985 amid unrelated allegations of misspending of university funds, spent the first hour of yesterday's proceedings answering questions from his own attorney, R. Kenneth Mundy.
As he had done during earlier questioning by Mundy, Green punctuated his often rambling answers with the comment, "That is a true statement."
He made a similar comment each time his testimony contradicted that of other witnesses, especially Dwight S. Cropp, now Barry's director of intergovernmental relations who simultaneously served as a top aide to both Barry and Green.
But Green's own testimony yesterday was often contradictory, which Johnson noted as she repeatedly directed Green to listen closely to the questions before he answered them.
Green insisted yesterday that he told the grand jury the truth and it is Cropp who is lying, possibly after rehearsing with Barry and other city officials what to say.
Cropp's testimony provides the main evidence for the five perjury counts against Green.
Throughout Bernstein's cross-examination, Green said he knew of possible spending irregularities in the mayor's funds and suggested that Cropp, Barry and Barry's attorney, Herbert O. Reid Sr., may have been trying to shift attention from themselves and their expenditures by implicating Green.
"They not only confer, they rehearse, especially when the topics become hot and complicated," Green said.
"Mr. Bernstein, I answered those questions truthfully and you have no evidence that I did not," Green said, concerning his grand jury testimony.
Cropp testified that he provided money from two special mayoral accounts to pay for the stereo and television, that Green knew the funds came from city money, that Green agreed to reimburse the mayor's office with UDC funds and that Green promised to leave the stereo and television in the official residence when he left UDC.
"I didn't even know what interagency transfers were then," Green said.
Green testified that he did not know the money Cropp provided was federal or city money, saying that he was told the money was from a special private account funded with donations solicited by city businessman Jeffrey Cohen that was used to "enhance" the mayor's office.
Prosecutors have said that there is no such fund, and the grand jury investigation of the mayor's special accounts resulted only in charges against Green and one other person.
Green also denied that he asked Cropp for $1,400 in cash so he could cover a personal check for $1,399 that he had written to reimburse the UDC Fund for the stereo. He denied his grand jury testimony that his personal check would have bounced had he not received the money from Cropp, testifying that he had a $25,000 line of credit at the National Bank of Washington that would have covered the check.
Bank statements introduced by the government showed that at the end of the banking period when Green deposited the $1,400 in cash and the $1,399 check cleared, Green had used $24,460.46 of the line of credit.
The government alleges that Green took the television and stereo because of his "bitterness" toward the university when he was forced to resign after only two years of his five-year contract.
Green, his voice often rising, denied yesterday that he was angry or bitter when he left the school and he denied that he had ever become upset or emotional when dealing with staff members on the transactions concerning the stereo.
Cropp, UDC Auditor Samuel Halsey and Acting Associated Vice President Edward Holland testified that Green became very upset when an arrangement for Green to borrow $1,399 from the UDC Fund to purchase the stereo became known to other persons.
"I was not upset, I was not emotional, I did not flail about," Green said. " . . . I don't yell, shout. I manage to control my emotions."