Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Alcee Hastings' trial

The Palm Beach Post just ran a 3-part series about Alcee Hastings.  Part 2 covered his federal trial and acquittal in which he was accused of taking bribes as a federal judge.  Despite his acquittal, he was later impeached (and then became a successful and longtime Representative).  I didn't realize that after the acquittal, two of Hastings' colleagues (William Terrell Hodges and Anthony Alaimo) secretly referred him for investigation by the 11th Circuit, which ended up getting him impeached.

The case against Hastings energized his black supporters, who saw it as yet another example of the white power structure attacking a black man who had risen too high.

Hastings girded himself for the fight, hiring a team of lawyers, including one named Patricia G. Williams, who would see him through this and other difficulties.

The judge ripped the government, saying he was being targeted because of his race and because of his opposition to the Reagan administration.
Three decades later, Hastings maintains that his criticism of the administration, his rulings and his unwillingness to shed friends and associates once he became a judge made him a target.

“I should have been more monastic, but that’s not my style,” he said.

Even before Rico’s indictment, there were holes in the government’s case against Hastings. Big ones.

Investigators could not prove that any of the first $25,000 given to Borders made its way to Hastings. They had not waited to see if Borders would take the remaining $125,000 and give some to Hastings.

That allowed Hastings to argue that Borders was carrying out the scheme on his own, trading on his associate’s position as a judge.

With Borders refusing to testify, Hastings disputed the notion that the two were good friends, saying Borders was merely a political ally with a funny way of speaking, a reference to the taped conversation that played such a big role in the case.

After a two-week trial in federal court in Miami, a jury acquitted Hastings of the charges against him.

Hastings and his supporters were euphoric.

“His victory has more or less opened the door of hope for so many of us who, through innumerable injustice, had come to feel that justice sits atop a mountain out of reach of the poor, the oppressed and the blacks of this nation,” Athalie Range, a black funeral home owner, told The Miami News after the verdict.

In a series of lectures he had published as “The Battles of Hastings” in 1996, one of Hastings’ attorneys, Terence Anderson, said the government knew Borders made false claims about his influence over judges.

“Before the investigation had been authorized, the FBI’s files contained information indicating that Borders had falsely held himself out as having the power to fix cases before other judges, judges whose integrity the government had never questioned.”

Anderson did not elaborate on what that information was, and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

For Hastings, the not guilty verdict was the only one a just system could deliver.

“Indeed, they found me not guilty of crimes I never committed,” Hastings would say. “I have not received a bribe. I have not obstructed justice. And I have not betrayed the high office I hold under Article III of the United States Constitution. I am not guilty.”

Hastings had taken the feds’ best shot — and won.

A few weeks after the verdict, 500 people showed up for a victory celebration and fundraiser.

Hastings was in the clear. Or so it seemed.

Judicial colleagues file secret complaint

William Terrell Hodges and Anthony Alaimo weren’t convinced.

Hastings had won his case and was back on the federal bench.

But Hodges and Alaimo, two of Hastings’ fellow judges on the 11th Judicial Circuit, wondered, if Borders were guilty, how could Hastings be innocent?

Under a new set of rules, the two judges, both white, took the extraordinary step of filing a secret complaint requesting an investigation into whether Hastings had lied and falsified evidence during his criminal trial.

The judges’ complaints sparked a three-year investigation led by John Doar, a legendary figure who had worked in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department for seven tumultuous years under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

An 11th Circuit panel, reviewing Doar’s findings, concluded that Hastings committed perjury, tampered with evidence and conspired to gain financially by accepting bribes.


Anonymous said...

One of many disgraceful episodes in the court's history.

Anonymous said...

As has been noted in the news, Judge Hastings is battling cancer. But as the article shows, he is a fighter and I am not one to bet against him

Anonymous said...

Alcee is an American treasure.

Anonymous said...

He was also a superb criminal defense lawyer. His closing argument for Yaweh Ben Yaweh was probably the best I've ever heard (other than my own of course!).

Anonymous said...

I miss judge hastings so much!!! i hope he heals quickly

Anonymous said...

Patricia Williams was disbarred in 1992, by a unanimous Florida Supreme Court.