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Judge Pulls Out of Harrelson Case

August 13, 1998

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ A federal judge who played a pickup basketball game with Woody Harrelson is removing himself from a case involving the actor’s father.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery has filed papers to remove himself from the Charles V. Harrelson case, the judge’s office manager, Gilbert Rodriguez, said today.

Charles Harrelson is seeking a new trial over the 1979 killing of another federal judge in San Antonio, John Wood Jr.

Biery presided over a three-day hearing in Denver last week. He has not yet issued his ruling on whether Charles Harrelson should get a new trial.

The hearing was held in Denver because of security concerns over transporting Charles Harrelson from a federal maximum security prison in Florence, Colo. In addition, the federal courthouse in San Antonio has been renamed after Wood.

While the parties were all in Denver for the hearing, the judge and the younger Harrelson played the one-on-one game during a chance meeting at a hotel.

Biery earlier said he didn’t believe the game raised any ethical concerns because they didn’t discuss the case. He said about 20 other people were in the gym while he and Harrelson played basketball for a half hour.

The former ``Cheers″ star turned movie actor is paying the legal expenses of his father, who’s serving two life prison terms for Wood’s death.

Prosecutors said a drug dealer hired the elder Harrelson to kill Wood because the dealer did not want the judge to preside at his upcoming trial. Harrelson has maintained his innocence, claiming he was in Dallas at the time of the murder.

The judge had described the actor as ``a very good athlete in great condition″ during an even match.

``I won some, and he won some,″ Biery said.

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