Former Arlington prosecutor William S. Burroughs Jr., who last year lost his job in a bitter election, has filed a $1.6 million damage suit against his successor, accusing him of making "false, misleading and defamatory statements" about his handling of a celebrated murder case.
Burroughs, a Democrat, made the charges against Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Henry E. Hudson, a Republican, in a lawsuit filed in a state court. The suit alleges that Hudson's campaign literature had "falsely imputed to [Burroughs'] unfitness to perform the duties of his office . . . and want of integrity."
Hudson, 32, who once served as Burroughs' chief assistant, declined to comment on the suit. He defeated Burroughs by a wide margin in a November 1979 election that focused on the murder case.
The suit is the fifth that Burroughs, 42, has filed in connection with the case. He currently has similar lawsuits pending in Arlington Circuit Court against Virginia State Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman and The Northern Virginia Sun, an Arlington newspaper.
Earlier this month Burroughs lost libel suits filed during his campaign against The Washington Post and The Washington Star and four newspaper reporters. Circuit Court Judge Charles S. Russell dismissed those suits after ruling that a newspaper cannot be held liable for the loss of an election. Russell had previously ruled that the newspapers' articles about Burroughs did not reflect upon his integrity or competence.
The suits grew out of Burroughs' handling of a spectacular and complicated 1977 double murder case involving Richard Lee Earman, a 37-year-old former real estate agent and Joseph N. Martin, a 30-year-old former life insurance salesman. Both were sentenced to prison terms last year, after court proceedings that became a key issue in the prosecutors' race.
Burroughs' handling of the cases against the two men also angered many top officials in the Arlington police department and led to a state police investigation. Coleman, a Republican, said he ordered that probe because of corroborated information that the prosecutor was guilty of bribery and a coverup involving the murder case.
Although the probe subsequently cleared Burroughs of allegations of criminal misconduct, it led to a bitter, two-year feud between the Democratic prosecutor and Republican attorney general during which the two men essentially sought to investigate each other.