A broadly grinning James Burkhardt, elated that nearly two years of federal suspicion had just officially ended, led his lawyer on a jubilant victory parade through the streets of Old Town Alexandria yesterday.
Walking the two blocks from federal court to Burkhardt's law office together, defense attorney Kenneth Robinson lifted his arms in a V-for-victory salute to passing motorists and Burkhardt waved to residents of Old Town's historic town houses who came out to greet him.
"We're going to rock and roll . . . this town is ours," Robinson yelled inside Burkhardt's office, mimicking the testimony of one prosecution witness, who claimed a prostitution ring had "bought protection" for its illegal activities with Burkhardt's help.
"The first thing I'm going to do is put my name plaque back outside the office," said Burkhardt, 49, the former president of the Alexandria Bar Association. "I took it off to help the firm. In the last year we've lost half our business. Now I want to help bring it back," he said.
Since his name was first mentioned two years ago in court papers filed by federal prosecutors investigating the $1 million-a-year prostitution empire of his client, Louis Michael Parrish, Burkhardt said, "I've been taking tranquilizers every day."
He said the accusations against him and his Feb. 12 indictment have helped bring him closer to his wife of 17 years, Victoria. Burkhardt said he had not told her previously of his relations with some of the prostitution ring's employes, a point that came out during court testimony.
"She found out about that in court. We have some scars to heal, but I think we can make it," he said.
Victoria Burkhardt, 41, had been eating lunch when the jury returned its verdict, and did not see her husband until she joined him later. She hugged him for more than a minute without either of them speaking.
"I don't want to talk about anything now," she said. "We have three wonderful children. The youngest, Heidi, she's eight, just called to say that she loved daddy and was happy we'd won."
Burkhardt, a 1960 graduate of George Washington University Law School, said he called former Alexandria prosecutor William L. Cowhig, the man to whom he was accused of funneling bribe money, and told him of the verdict. "He said he was happy for me, but I don't think those people [federal prosecutors] will give up on [investigating] Cowhig," he predicted.
Cowhig could not be reached for comment.
At a celebration later in the afternoon at "Ireland's Own," an Old Town restaurant in which his wife is a partner, the stereo system was playing Bing Crosby's rendition of "Danny Boy" as Burkhardt sipped an ale. "Maybe I'll get bitter or angry in a few days," he said."Right now I'm glad it's over."
"I've always wanted to be a lawyer, but it wouldn't mean that much to me if I had to go through another trial like this," he added. "I'm going to stay away from controversial cases from now on."