A U.S. court jury yesterday acquitted former D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert H. Campbell of criminal charges that he accepted mroe than $7,000 in bribes from a local construction firm while was a member of the local court, but convicted him of illegally letting the company's workers move his household belongs in 1975.
In a dramatic climax to what had been a hard-fought seven-week trial, the jury of eight women and four men also acquitted Larry A. Campbell (no relation to the judge), the general manager of Excavation Construction inc., and the firm itself of the same conspiracy, bribery and racketeering charges that had been brought against the former judge. But both Larry Campbell and the Bladensburgh company were convicted of offering the gift, which the government said was worth about $300, of moving the judge's belongings while he was on the bench.
The charge on which the Campbell and the company were convicted -- receiving or offering a gratuity -- was the least serious of the four they faced. It means that the former judge was found guilty of accepting a gift while he was a public official, but that he was not expected to do anything specific in return, as would be the case with a bribe.
Federal law prohibits giving or offering anything of value to a public official for himself for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by the official.
The two men, who remain free pending sentence on April 24, could received up to two years in prison. The former judge, the construction executive and the company also could be fined up to $10,000.
The verdict in the case, the culmination of a three-year investigation into the former judge's handling of overweight truck tickets given to Excavation Construction, was the first alleged judicial corruption case ever brought in Washington. U.S. Attorney Charles F.C. Ruff, who was in court for the verdict, declined comment on the outcome.
Jury foreman Patricia Moton, fanning herself with a prayer book, stood to read the verdict shortly before 5 p.m. after the jury had deliberated for nearly 20 hours over the last four days. Both Campbells remained expressionless as Moton announced the decision of "not guilty" on all but the single count.
As the jury left the courtroom, Moton collapsed to the floor and was rushed from the courthouse by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital. Hospital officials said Moton had suffered chest pains and was hyperventilating, but was reported to be "grinning and bearing it" in the hosptial emergency room where she was undergoing tests.
The remaining jurors were immediately taken from the courthouse by deputy U.S. Marshals to an undisclosed hotel, where they had been sequestered since Saturday. sequestered since Saturday.
Most of the jurors were not available for comment, but Juror Bessie Thorp said, "I feel like we did what was right." She declined to discuss the jury's deliberations, saying she was exhausted.
Former judge Campbell refused to comment on the jury's decision, abruptly raising his left arm in the air and firmly waving off questions from reporters as he left the courtroom. An unidentified man who had been with Campbell during most of the trial broke down in tears as he walked arm in arm with the judge through the courthouse hallways. Campbell, surrounded by other friends, wiped a tear from his eye, signed out on the courthouse ledger at a guard's desk and then left the courthouse.
Larry Campbell's only comment after the verdict was announced was that he felt "better Excavation Construction, one of the Washington area's major construction firms, filed for voluntary reorganization under federal bankcruptcy laws in September 1979.
Neither the former judge nor Larry Campbell testified during the trial in U.S. District Court. Larry Campbell's lawyer, Arnoldl M. Weiner, who once represented fromer Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel, said yesterday that the jury's verdict showed that the testimony of defendants, whether they are public officials or not, is not essential to a full determination of the facts in a case.
The jury's sole guilty verdict involved a charge that in August 1975, Excavation Construction employes, using a truck paid for by a company credit card, moved the judge's belongings from one house to another. During the trial, the government's key witness, former company official Robert Payne Jenkins, testified that he arranged the move. Jenkins also testified that the judge told him three years later that he had given the employes $60 for the move and two employes, also called to the witness stand, supported that testimony.
Weiner asked Judge Thomas A. Flannery to immediately set aside the jury's verdict against Larry Campbell, since Jenkins had testified that Campbell was unaware of the move arrangements. Flannery said he would consider the request on the same day as the sentencing is scheduled.
R. Kenneth Mundy, former judge Campbell's lawyer, was not present when the jury announced its verdict. Mundy's associate, Robert Mance, who was at the defense table with Campbell, also asked Flannery to set aside the verdict.
Mance said Campbell was "pretty much relieved" by the verdict, but intends to appeal the single conviction.
Assistnt U.S. Attorneys John P. Hume and Carol E. Bruce, who prosecuted the case for the government, argued that the evidence showed that Jenkins was the company's "trusted bagman" who allegedly carried payoffs to former judge Campbelll in exchange for his lenient treatment of thousands of dollars worth of overweight truck tickets issued to the firm.
The government contended that Jenkins withdrew money from company accounts to make the payments to the former judge. Weiner said, however, that the jury may have been influenced by defense evidence that Jenkins may have used the money for his own benefit, including financing trips to the Bahamas and supporting an illicit love affair.
The testimony against Jenkins, Weiner said, "case serious doubt" on testimony from other government witnesses that sums of money had gone to former judge Campbell.
During long discussions with reporters Friday afternoon, while the jury was in the midst of its deliberations, the former judge indicated that he had resigned himself to a conviction and said he felt he was the victim of a government vendetta. After published reports of those statements appeared Saturday, Flannery ordered the jury sequestered to shield them from any publicity until they reached a verdict in the case.
When the trial began, Mundy told the jury of 11 blacks and one white that the former judge, who is black, would show that his handling of overweight tickets was influeced by his belief that black truck drivers had been targeted by white police officers. Without testimony directly from the judge himself, Mundy tried to shore up that point through two other principal defense witnesses.
One, former Superior Court judge Charles W. Halleck, testified that he thought black drivers wre singled out for overweight truck tickets. Halleck admitted, however, that his information was based only on his observations.
A second witness, former assistant D.C. corporation counsel Frank P. Miller, testified that in 1975 he met with a delegation of minority haulers, who complained they were targets for overweight truck violations.
Both Halleck and Miller said the disposition of overweight tickets was up to the discretion of the prosecutor and the court, and both agreed such cases insignificant and at the bottom of their list of priorties.
Prosecutor Hume argued that there had been no evidence at the trial to support accusations of racial discrimination against black truckers.
Jenkins, once the assistance general manager of Excavation Construction, was convicted of perjury in December 1979 for lying to a U.S. grand jury that was investigating the Campbell case.
Jenkins subsequently began cooperating with federal prosecutors. His testimony at the trial, officially designated "hostile," turned into a long and frustrating ordeal for prosecutor Hume, who later told the jury that Jenkins still was a loyal company man, out to sabotage the government's case and protect his longtime friend, Larry Campbell.
Crucial evidence in the government's case was a financial analysis. Prepared by Irs special agent James Lynch, it showed that during the 30-month period covered by the indictment, Judge Campbell spent $37,000 more than he could have collected through his source of income that were known to federal agents, such as his salary and his wife's annuity.
The govrnment contended that some of that amount was bribe money paid to the former judge in cash by Excavation Construction.