Rep. Hastings Target Of Ethics Probe, Lawsuit For Sexual Harassment – OpEd
By Jim Kouri
Impeached judge now U.S. lawmaker, Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) received some bad news from his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as from a public-interest group that investigates and exposes government and political corruption in Washington, D.C., and throughout the 50 states.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton yesterday stated in response to a report released by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) related to sexual harassment and other allegations made by Winsome Packer against Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), as well as a House Ethics Committee’s decision to extend its probe of the allegations:
“We are very pleased that the Office of Congressional Ethics report validated Ms. Packer’s allegations against Rep. Hastings. Now the House Ethics Committee needs to get its act together and punish Rep. Hastings for his reprehensible treatment of Ms. Packer. Given the grave nature of the allegations and the other laws he evidently violated, the Department of Justice ought to investigate the allegations against Rep. Hastings as well.
“In the meantime, Judicial Watch will proceed with its lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Packer.
“Rep. Hastings’ attacks against Winsome Packer are disgraceful and beneath the office he holds. His response calls to mind his corrupt behavior that resulted in his impeachment and removal from the federal bench.”
Hastings’ Legacy: Bribery, Perjury, Impeachment
Prior to his election to congress, Hastings worked as a private-practice attorney, a civil rights activist, and a Florida judge. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, he became the first African-American federal judge in the state of Florida, and served in that position for ten years. He’s still called “Judge” by some of his colleagues, but one would think he’d rather forget his days on the federal bench.
In 1989, Judge Hastings was impeached by the US House of Representatives for bribery and perjury. The Democratic-controlled Senate convicted Hastings of accepting a $150,000 bribe in 1981 in exchange for a lenient sentence and of perjury in his testimony about the case. Hastings said the charges against him smacked of racism.
He distinguished himself by being only the sixth Judge in US history to be removed from office by the US Senate. So damning was the evidence against him that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), a founding member of the CBC, favored impeaching him.
Conyers, who is also black, said he “found no trace of racism during the investigation.” He urged his colleagues to remove Hastings from the bench. He said, “[Hastings] is unfit to serve.”
His impeachment was remanded back to the Senate by Judge Stanley Sporkin after Hastings filed lawsuit claiming that his impeachment trial was invalid because he was tried by a Senate committee, not in front of the full Senate, and that he had been acquitted in a criminal trial.
But the US Supreme Court had ruled in a similar case, regarding Judge Walter Nixon, who had also been impeached and removed. The SCOTUS stated that the courts had no jurisdiction to review Senate impeachment procedures and Hastings’ impeachment and removal were reinstated. The Senate had the option to forbid Hastings from ever seeking federal office again when it removed him, but did not do so. Which opened the door for Hastings to get himself elected to congress.
An editorial in South Florida Sun-Sentinel denounced Rep. Hastings with this tidbit: “Personal and political paybacks are the first order of business for Hastings.”
The biting editorial resulted from Hastings putting his girlfriend, a disgraced former lawyer who was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court for “multiple offenses,” on the public payroll as his “office liaison and staff assistant.”
According to the Sentinel, Alcee Hastings owed her “more than $500,000 in legal fees for representing him during his 1983 bribery trial and his 1989 impeachment hearings before Congress.” Alcee Hastings continues to employ her as his scheduling assistant, paying her more money than even his chief of staff gets, causing another reporter to comment, “She must be some scheduler.”
And Rep.Hastings treated his scheduler Vanessa Griddine to many perks. For instance, he spent over $14,000 on a taxpayer-paid trip to Belgium. Almost $3000 of this was listed as per diem expenses for the lucky couple and 11,400 was spent on what must have been a marvelous flight across the pond.
Packer v. US Comm. On Security & Cooperation in Europe, and Hastings and Turner
On March 7, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Winsome Packer against Rep. Hastings
On October 11, 2011, the Office of Congressional Ethics referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee and released a report concluding, “…there is probable cause to believe that Representative Hastings violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law as a result of his interactions with [Ms. Packer].”
Ms. Packer, the complainant, alleges that Rep. Hastings subjected her to unwelcome sexual advances and touching over a two year period when she worked for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the Helsinki Commission).
Ms. Packer further alleges that Rep. Hastings, with the assistance of Helsinki Commission Staff Director Fred Turner, retaliated against her when she rebuffed the congressman’s advances.
Special thanks to Jill Sutherland Farrell, director of public affairs for Judicial Watch, for her valuable work and support.