The arraignment of U.S. District Judge Alcee Hastings on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice was delayed until Tuesday after Hastings told another federal judge today he has not yet found a suitable defense team.
Hastings, a Miami federal judge, has been accused of conspiring with Washington lawyer William A. Borders Jr. to solicit $150,000 in bribes from defendants appearing before Hastings. He had been expected to plead innocent to the charges today.
Borders, also charged with two counts of interstate travel to promote bribery, pleaded innocent Wednesday and was released on a $25,000 personal surety bond.
Appearing alone before visiting U.S. District Judge C. William Kraft Jr. of Philadelphia, Hastings said he is consulting "an important selection of folk to assist me." He also said he has been unable to "marshal the financial resources" necessary for his elaborate defense, which he said would include constitutional issues.
Hastings is believed to be the second federal judge indicted for crimes allegedly committed while on the bench. He said he has consulted legal authorities at Howard, Harvard and Stanford universities and the universities of Chicago and Miami as well as lawyers in at least seven major cities.
"I am going to have an enormous amount of help," Hastings said in his only statement to reporters afterwards, "and I am going to take the appropriate time to secure it." He declined to outline his strategy.
Kraft reluctantly granted the delay until Tuesday at 2 p.m. and released Hastings on his personal assurances that he will reappear. Kraft said he was concerned the postponement would complicate the schedule of another visiting judge who will try the case.
U.S. District Judge Edward Thaxter Gignoux, 65, chief judge for the District of Maine, was appointed to hear Hastings' case after Hastings' 11 colleagues in Miami disqualified themselves. Gignoux, a Harvard Law School graduate, once was considered by Richard Nixon for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. He is due in Miami on Jan. 19 for pretrial conferences, according to Kraft.
Hastings, 45, was installed two years ago as Florida's first black federal trial judge. Hastings has charged that racism and politics are behind the Justice Department probe and repeatedly has said he does not expect to be convicted of anything.