A federal judge in Alexandria has ordered the government to reimburse $500,000 in attorneys fees to five former Boeing Co. executives, noting that the Justice Department erred four years ago when it brought a civil action against Boeing and the executives charging them with conflict of interest.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Boeing did not act illegally when it gave $485,000 in severance pay to the five executives, who left the company for positions in the Pentagon. That ruling reversed a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the case.

U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton rejected the Justice Department's argument that the five men were not entitled to attorneys fees because Boeing agreed to advance the executives some of the cost of their defense and may have chosen some day to forgive the debt.

Melvyn R. Paisley, one of the five executives, received $183,000 from Boeing when he left the company in 1981 to become assistant secretary of the Navy.

Paisley has been named as a possible target of the Ill Wind investigation into Pentagon procurement fraud, although his attorneys have said he was not involved in any illegal influence or bribes.