Dr. Murdock Head, the executive director of the Airlie Foundation, was convicted by a federal jury yesterday of conspiring to bribe two members of Congress and other government officials and scheming to violate tax laws.
The U.S. District Court jury in Alexandria found the 55-year-old Head guilty of a singe conspiracy count. The jury reported itself "hopelessly deadlocked" on a separate charge of tax evasion.It had previously acquitted Head of two other tax-evasion counts.
Head, a trim, athletic man who is also a George Washington University professor and chairman of its medical and public affairs department, remained impassive as the guilty verdict was announced in the courtroom shortly after 3 p.m. He appeared calm and relatively relaxed afterward andd smiled as he left the courthouse.
Head declined to comment, saying that "under the circumstances" any statement would be made by his lawyers. "We are definitely going to appeal," said Brian P. Gettings, one of Head's attorneys. "It (the verdict) could have been better."
Head faces a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine on the conspiracy charge. Judge Oren R. Lewis said he would sentence Head on Oct. 24.
Head -- who holds graduate degrees in law, medicine and dentistry -- was accomanied in the courtroom by his two daughters, Kim, 27, and Karen, 23, and a number of aides and associates at Airlie. Many appeared close to tears as the verdict was read.
Head's son, Mark, 25, a medical student at George Washington university, had attended previous sessions, but was not present yesterday. Head has been separated from his wife for a number of years, aides say.
The prosecutors declined to comment on the verdict. Lewis gave them until early next week to decide whether they would seek a new trial on the single tax-evasion count on which the jury was deadlocked.
The prosecutors also have not announced what action they plan to take on nine other bribery and tax-falsification counts against Head that were dismissed or set aside by Lewis. They have the option of appealing the dismissals.
The conspiracy count on which Head was convicted was the principal charge lodged against him. It alleged that Head had arranged to give bribes to Rep. Daniel J. Flood (D-Pa.), former Flood aide Stephen B. Elko, former representative Otto E. Pasman (D-La.) and a now-retired Internal Revenue Service agent.
The payoffs -- including $49,000 in cash and an $11,000 loan -- were allegedly given in return for help in obtaining federal grants and contracts for the Airline Foundation, based nearWarrenton, Va., and favorable tax treatment for Head's enterprises.
The conspiracy count also accused Head of scheming to evade and falsify tax returns of Raven's Hollow Ltd., a film-making company affiliated with Airlie.
Because of instructions given by Lewis to the jury, it was unclear whether Head was found guilty of taking part in a bribery scheme or whether he was believed by the jurors to have conspired to violate tax laws. Lewis told the jurors they could convict Head of conspiracy solely on the basis of the tax charges, even if they did not believe Head took part in a payoff scheme.
Lewis sternly warned the jurors -- seven men and five women -- that they were "prohibited" from talking to reporters. The jurors filed out of the coutroom, declining to talk to the press. They had deliberated for about 9 1/2 hours Thursday and yesterday.
Lewis commented obliquely on the verdict, telling the jurors, "we wouldn't have been far apart on what you did."
Although Head's lawyers declined to state the grounds on which they would appeal the guilty verdict, they raised repeated objections to Lewis' rulings during the seven days of the trial. $ on Thursday, Frank W. Dunham jr., one of Head's lawyers, objected to numerous aspects of Lewis' instructions to the jury. Dunham argued, in part, that the jurors should have been told they had to acquit Head of conspiracy if they believed there were two separate conspiracies, one to arrange bribes and the other to violate tax laws. Lewis had told the jurors they could convict Head if the concluded there were two conspiracies.
At one point during yesterday's deliberations, the jury sent a note to the judge, reportedly asking whether "backdating" a lease was illegal. This was one of the issues in the tax-evasion allegations. Lewis discussed note note privately with prosecutors and Head's lawyers in his chambers and sent a reply to the jury. He did not comment on it publicly.
The Airlie Foundation, created by Head in 1960, is situated on more than 1,700 acres of gently sloping farmland in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, nearly 50 miles west of Washington.
The tax-exempt foundation, which bills itself as an "island of thought," is operated partly as a conference center and retreat, where government and private organizations hold meetings in secluded georgian Manor houses. Also located on Ailie's grounds is the Raven's Hollow film-making company -- a taxable corporation whose financial records were a central issue in Head's trial.
Over the years, Head's foundation and its affiliated organizations secured more than $15 millions in federal grants and contracts. Even before yesterday's conviction, some Airlie Foundation officials had expressed concern that the federal investigation of Head had made it difficult for the organizations to continue receiving such support.
The trial, which began Oct. 2, was marked by frequent acrimonious exchanges between the lawyers andJudge Lewis, a colorful, crusty and controversial 77-year old jurist. At one point, in the presence of the jury, Lewis rebuked the prosecutors for "making a farce out of this case" by asking improper questions of witnesses. At other times, Lewis sharply reprimanded Head's lawyers.
Before the start of the trial, the prosecutors had urged on appeals court to remove Lewis as the presiding judge at Head's trial, arguing that Lewis had displayed an "angry attitude" and an "appearance of bias" against the prosecution in pretrial hearings.
The appellate cout rebuffed the prosecutors' move and Lewis declined to step aside.
During the course of the trial, Lewis dismissed eight of the 13 counts on which Head was indicted last July. Among these were five bribery counts -- alleging that Head had arranged an illegal $11,000 loan to former Internal Revenue Service agent Jesse R. Hare in exchange for lenient tax treatment for Airlie enterprises. Lewis ruled that a five-year statute of limitations had expired on these charges.
Lewis had previously set aside one other bribery count, charging that Head had given Flood a $1,000 payoff in 1974. Lewis said Head's trial on this count should be postponed until after Flood's retrial. Flood's first bribery trial ended in a hung jury last February. The second trial has been delayed because of Flood's poor health.
In seeking to prove its allegations that Head engaged in a scheme to bribe Flood and Passman, the prosecution relied heavily on testimony by Elko, Flood's former administrative assistant. Elko is currently on parole from a two yer prison sentence for perjury and other crimes stemming from a separate bribery scheme involving a California vocation school. Elko testified under a grant of immunity from further prosecution.
During Head's trial, Elko described a series of meetings with Head at his Airlie headquarters from 1971 to 1974, during which Head allegedly gave Elko $49,000 in payoffs intended mainly for Flood and Passman. Elko said Head used facial tissue to avoid getting his fingerprints on the money -- much of it allegedly in $100 bills -- and he told the jury that Head often employed code names, calling Flood "the Mustache" and Passman "The Priest."
Head, testifying in his own defense, pointedly disputed Elko's testimony and bitterly denounced Elko as a "consummate schemer-promoter," who tried to extort money from him.
Head acknowledged that he had given cash to Elko on several occasions during the early 1970s, but said the payments, usually amounting to $300 to $500, were mainly intened as legitimate political campaign contributions for Flood. Head said he also gave Elko a personal loan of about $1,000 in 1972.
Elko remained in the courtroom audience during the concluding days of the trial. He expressed "deep compassion" for Head and complimented some of Head's lawyers for giving a "beautiful summation" to the jury.
The prosecution produced evidence designed to prove that Head had established a secret "slush fund," amounting to more than $90,000, through a system of phony duplicate billing for travel exenses. The prosecutors contended that the fund was used to pay bribes and evade taxes.
Head ackowledged that a fund existed, but he said it was used for legitimate business expenses, includling offsetting losses for stolen film-making equipment. He termed it a "contingency fund" and denied it was ever used to pay bribes.
head also ackownledged that he had instructed an assistant to wipe off cash to avoid leaving fingerprints. He asserted, however,that these instructions were above-board. Head said he needed money that could not be traced to Airlie to help a friend who was a blackmail victim and to use in producing motion picture films dealing with unsavory activities such as narcotics abuse.
The tax-evasion charges lodged by the prosecution hinged on allegations that Head had arranged phony deductions for the Raven's Hollow film-making company to reduce the films tax liabilty.
Head's lawyers argued that the deductions represented legitmate business expenses and that any dispute over Raven's Hollow taxes should have been resolved through civil, rather than criminal, proceedings. Head said he never took part in preparing the firm's tax returns.