U.S. District Court Judge Oren R. Lewis yesterday denied motions for a mistrial and acquittal filed by convicted Alexandria prostitution figures Louis Michael Parrish and Larry J. Wadino, at the same time lecturing attorneys on his personal view of the press.
"the press has the absolute right to say whatever they want, even if it's not true. They distort, they're experts at it, that's why I was in the newspaper business for so long," said Lewis, 76, a former executive of the defunct Washington Times-Herald and the Hearst newspaper chain.
Lewis then denied a motion for a mistrial for Parrish and Wadino based on a March 23 article published in The Washington Post while the jury was still deliberating some of the counts against the two men.
Lewis told defense attorney John M. Dowd that he had failed to prove that the unsequestered jurors saw the article, which contained a statement by U.S. Attorney William B. Cummings that Parrish and Wadino might be called before a grand jury investigating possible political corruption in Alexandria. Dowd claimed the statement was "prejudicial" to Parrish and Wadino.
Cummings had a right to make his statement and the paper had a right to print it, Lewis ruled in denying the motion. "I love the Post, they can say anything they want, . . . [but] I don't always believe what I read," he added, as spectators and reporters laughed.
Lewis, who said that "some reporters . . . are personal friends of mine," did not say that any of the information in the article was inaccurate.
Lewis also denied a motion for a mistrial filed by Dowd on Wadino's behalf. Dowd argued unsuccessfully that prosecutors failed to present evidence linking Wadino to a conspiracy to violate interstate racketeering and prostitution laws. Dowd also contended that there was no evidence to connect Wadino to acts of prostitution committed by women who traveled across state lines.
Lewis disagreed. "I would have reached the same conclusion sooner if [the case] had been submitted to me without a jury," the judge said.
Parrish and aides Wadino and Kathy Lynn Caldwell operated several massage parlors and outcall services, described by prosecutors as the largest, most sophisticated prostitution ring in the Washington area.
Parrish faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, Wadino faces 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, and Caldwell could receive up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for April 13.
Although Lewis denied the motions immediately after Dowd spoke, he asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry E. Hudson if Hudson wanted to make a response for the record. When Hudson began by recalling that Lewis had "chastized" him for putting on so much evidence, Lewis playfully interrupted him in mid-sentence.
"there's the next headline, 'Oren Lewis Chastizes U.S. Attorney,'" he said, before urging reporters to point out that "I did it with a smile."