Judges Urge House To Consider Impeaching Hastings
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A special panel of U.S. District Judge Alcee L. Hastings’ fellow judges charged in a report released Wednesday that Hastings ″attempted to corruptly use his office for personal gain″ and recommended that the House consider impeaching him.
The 381-page report of an investigation by a five-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded there was ″clear and convincing evidence″ that the Miami jurist conspired to solicit a $150,000 bribe from two convicted racketeers in exchange for a promise of lenient sentences.
The panel also charged that in an effort to conceal the conspiracy, Hastings gave false testimony and fabricated evidence at his highly publicized trial in Miami in 1983, which resulted in his acquittal.
William A. Borders Jr., a prominent Washington lawyer and close Hastings friend, was convicted at a separate trial in 1982 of conspiring to arrange the alleged bribe from convicted racketeers Frank and Tom Romano.
Hastings, who was nominated by President Carter in 1979 to be Florida’s first black federal judge, flew here from Miami on Wednesday to pick up his own copy of the report. He insisted again that he had done nothing wrong.
The report was forwarded to House Speaker Jim Wright last March and is being studied by a team of lawyers for the House Judiciary subcommittee on criminal justice headed by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.
Reps. Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., and F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., have introduced a resolution demanding that the House initiate impeachment proceedings against Hastings.
Standing in the hallway of a congressional office building where the report was released, Hastings said told reporters that if they were looking for ″a smoking gun,″ they would be disappointed.
″You ain’t gonna find even a fizzling cap pistol,″ Hastings said.
He said the report was based on the same evidence used to acquit him in 1983, and ″quite frankly I am unimpressed by it.″
He described the report as ″slopped-up ink that amounts to one person’s view of what was a predetermined idea of what happened.″ The report was written by former Justice Department official John Doar, special counsel to the judicial panel that investigated Hastings.
Hastings, who previously had protested that his prosecution was racially and politically motivated, said Wednesday he didn’t know why his fellow judges recommended impeachment.
″I don’t give a damn,″ he said, ″but I’m convinced they are wrong.″
The judicial panel said the evidence ″clearly and convincingly establishes″ that Hastings conspired in 1981 to solicit a bribe in exchange for a promise to reduce the Romano brothers’ three-year prison terms to probation.
After listing 32 points of evidence, the panel declared:
″The bedrock upon which the reputation of the judiciary rests is that the action of federal judicial officers is not for sale. Judge Hastings attempted to corruptly use his office for personal gain. Such conduct cannot be excused or condoned even after Judge Hastings has been acquitted of the criminal charges.″
The report added:
″There is clear and convincing evidence that Judge Hastings sought to conceal his participation in the bribery scheme and to explain away evidence connecting him with the sale of justice and that he pursued these objectives through concocting and presenting fabricated documents and false testimony in a United States district court.
″Judge Hastings’ conduct was premeditated, deliberate and contrived.″
The judges unanimously concluded that Hastings engaged in a conspiracy with Borders to receive a bribe and ″in an effort to conceal the conspiracy, Judge Hastings has given false testimony at his trial and has engaged in obstruction of justice″ before and during the trial.
This conduct, they said, ″might constitute one or more grounds for impeachment.″
The panel’s report was unanimously endorsed by the 27-member Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary’s policy-making body, which forwarded the report to the House. The House voted earlier this week to make the report public.
If Hastings were impeached by the House, which would amount to an indictment on charges of ″high crimes and misdemeanors,″ the Senate would conduct a trial. The last such impeachment trial was held last October, when the Senate convicted federal Judge Harry E. Claiborne of Nevada and removed him from the bench for tax evasion.