U.S. District Court Judge Alcee L. Hastings "attempted to corruptly use his office for personal gain" and then tried to cover up his participation in a bribery scheme by lying under oath and presenting "fabricated documents" at his trial, according to a judicial investigative report released yesterday.
The report, adopted unanimously by a five-judge committee for the Judicial Council of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, found that the "evidence clearly and convincingly establishes" that the Miami judge conspired to solicit a $150,000 bribe from two convicted racketeers in return for lenient sentences.
Although Hastings was acquitted at a criminal trial of bribery conspiracy, the report said, the jury verdict should not prevent Congress from launching impeachment proceedings.
The Judicial Conference of the United States forwarded the 381-page report to the House of Representatives in March, saying it believed Hastings "engaged in conduct which might constitute grounds for impeachment." A House Judiciary subcommittee headed by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) is investigating whether to recommend that Hastings be impeached.
Hastings, who was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and is Florida's first black federal judge, pressed for release of the report, which he had been allowed to review but not obtain until yesterday.
Hastings, who traveled here yesterday to obtain a copy of the report, said it is based largely on evidence presented at his trial. "It ain't no smoking gun," he said. "It's not even a fizzling cap pistol." Hastings denied any wrongdoing and predicted he will be exonerated.
Hastings was accused of conspiring with Washington lawyer William A. Borders Jr. to solicit a $150,000 bribe from two convicted racketeers in exchange for sentencing them to probation instead of prison terms and returning property seized from them. Borders, who was tried separately, was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to five years.
Hastings complained about being forced to fight off impeachment proceedings after being acquitted, saying, "I am the first and only federal judge to be subjected to the impeachment process after being found not guilty in a court of law. Do we believe in the jury system or don't we?"
But the report concluded that impeaching Hastings would not constitute double jeopardy or be unfair.
"The bedrock upon which the reputation of the judiciary rests is that the action of federal judicial officers is not for sale," the report said. "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."