Senate votes to consider impeachment charges

WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted overwhelmingly to order a trial of federal Judge Alcee Hastings on impeachment charges that he sold the honor of his office in a bribery and conspiracy case.

Hastings, a U.S. district judge from Miami, appealed to the Senate in an open session Wednesday to dismiss the articles of impeachment based on the findings of a jury that acquitted him of the charges in 1983.


Hastings said the Senate should dismiss the charges on the basis of the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy and fundamental fairness.

The Senate discussed the motions for dismissal in a closed session Thursday, and then voted in public to reject the request and order a trial.

It voted 92-1 to reject the motion to dismiss 15 articles of impeachment alleging Hastings conspired to obtain a bribe. Only Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, voted with Hastings.

The Senate then voted 93-0 to reject Hastings' motion to dismiss an article of impeachment that he undermined confidence in the judiciary and betrayed the trust of the people by his actions.

Hastings, 52, did not contest a trial on a 17th charge, that he improperly disclosed confidential information about a 1985 wiretap over which he presided. Hastings said legitimate concerns had been raised about his action.


The House voted for the articles of impeachment last year, 413-3.

The Senate leadership sent the charges to 12 senators, who will act as the jury in the impeachment trial. The senators will hear the evidence and make a recommendation to the full Senate.

If he is impeached, Hastings will be ousted from his lifetime position with an annual salary of $89,500.

At his 1983 trial, Hastings was acquitted of charges he conspired with a lawyer to solicit a $150,000 bribe from two convicted racketeers who were seeking to reduce their prison sentences to probation. The lawyer was convicted of the charge in a separate trial.

A federal judiciary committee later investigated the trial, ruled that Hastings lied and conspired in winning the innocent verdict, and sent the matter to Congress for the impeachment process.

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