Court Rejects Drunkenness Charge Against Anne Burford
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ The former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Anne M. Burford, cleared on a charge of being drunk in public, says justice has been done.
An Arlington County, Va., judge dropped the intoxication charge Friday against Mrs. Burford, who resigned her government job in 1983 as Congress was investigating her agency.
″It is all very unfortunate, and I am extremely grateful that justice has been done,″ she said after the court proceeding.
Mrs. Burford’s lawyers argued that police had no evidence that she was drunk during the early morning Sept. 21 incident.
″She was acting like an attorney ... and attorneys can sometimes be a pain,″ lawyer Lou Koutoulakos told General District Judge Eleanor Dobson. ″She might have been obstreperous, but there is no evidence she was drunk in public.″
Mrs. Burford was charged with drunkenness in public after she appeared at the Arlington County Jail demanding to see her husband, who had just been booked on a drunken driving charge. Robert Burford, director of the Bureau of Land Management in the Interior Department, is scheduled for trial April 2.
Four officers told the court Friday that Mrs. Burford was arrested on the misdemeanor charge because she bore a strong odor of alcohol and was repeatedly belligerent following Robert Burford’s arrest. Mrs. Burford was in the car when her husband was arrested.
Her attorneys, Plato Cacheris and Koutoulakos, told the court that an odor of alcohol was insufficient to prove drunkenness, and that Mrs. Burford’s argumentativeness was prompted by her concern for her husband, then recovering from heart surgery, and her instincts as an attorney.
Dobson apparently agreed. She granted, without comment, a defense motion in mid-trial to strike down the charge.
Virginia State Trooper James H. Hampton said he came across the Burfords’ car as it was parked on the shoulder of Interstate 395 just outside Washington, and quickly determined that Robert Burford was drunk. ″Anything I did, she interrupted. She kept butting in ... and argued over everything,″ Hampton said.
The trooper said he called a supervisor to the scene after Mrs. Burford accused him of stealing $500 belonging to the couple. That testimony was stricken, however, on ground it was not relevant to her behavior when she was arrested herself later at the jail.
Arlington County Police Cpl. Dave Green testified that Mrs. Burford, after arriving at the jail, complained that her husband was being ″illegally detained.″ Green said she ″continued to be very unreasonable ... she wouldn’t calm down, no matter what I said to her.″ He also said Mrs. Burford’s ″eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slurred.″
Officer Mary Nelson said Mrs. Burford was ″very belligerent, abusive and very loud,″ and refused to extinguish her cigarette when ordered to do so.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney John Wasowicz, the prosecutor, said, ″I felt the evidence was sufficient to overcome the motion to strike″ the charge. He is not entitled to appeal the ruling.
If convicted, Mrs. Burford would have faced only a $10 fine and $20 court costs.
Mrs. Burford resigned from the EPA in 1983 in the wake of six congressional investigations into allegations of mismanagement at the agency. President Reagan later appointed her to an environmental advisory post, but the nomination was withdrawn in the face of criticism in Congress and after she called the job a ″nothingburger.″