WASHINGTON — The congressional impeachment investigation of U.S. District Judge Alcee L. Hastings of Miami has been broadened to encompass an allegation that he compromised two FBI corruption probes by leaking information about a wiretap, officials confirmed Friday.
The allegation, under investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, is the latest in a series of legal controversies swirling around Hastings--Florida's first black federal judge--who has charged that the Justice Department is pursuing a "vendetta" against him.
A federal jury in 1983 acquitted Hastings of bribery, but last year a panel of federal judges concluded that he had lied to the jury and recommended that the House begin impeachment proceedings. The Judiciary Committee, the panel considering the recommendation, confirmed that the allegation about the leak has been added to its perjury inquiry.
Detailed in Petitions
The new allegation is detailed in petitions filed by the committee seeking access to records of a Florida federal grand jury.
According to the petitions, Hastings allegedly told Steven Clark, mayor of Dade County, in September, 1985, to "stay away" from a man named Kevin Gordon, whom the FBI had under surveillance in connection with a corruption probe, because Gordon was "hot." At the time, Hastings was supervising the FBI's wiretapping of Gordon, a former Miami building inspector, and was receiving regular reports on the progress of the investigation.
Clark told Gordon, an acquaintance, what Hastings had said, the petition said, and the FBI subsequently determined that its investigation had been compromised when agents overheard Gordon discussing the remark with his attorney.
Within days, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office in Miami halted two investigations--one of corruption in the International Longshoreman's Assn. in Miami and the second of local zoning corruption--for fear that agents working undercover might be in danger, according to Ana Barnett, executive assistant to Miami U.S. Atty. Leon Kellner. Clark has publicly admitted passing along the tip.
No Indictment Returned
In 1986, federal prosecutors convened a grand jury to investigate the leak. The grand jury heard from Clark, but not Gordon, who had died of a heart attack earlier in the year. Hastings said he was not asked to testify and learned of the grand jury investigation only through a newspaper account. The grand jury returned no indictment.
In an interview Friday, Hastings denied any wrongdoing and accused unnamed Justice Department officials of illegally leaking secret grand jury testimony about him to members of Congress and the press. "Somebody is playing dirty pool, but I can stand the test," he said.
Because Hastings never explicitly mentioned the wiretap or the investigation to Clark, the conversation may not have violated any federal law, the Justice Department concedes.
Justice Department officials and congressional investigators, however, say the matter is appropriate for consideration in the congressional probe of whether he should be allowed to remain on the federal bench.
Asked to Begin Probe
In September, 1986, Asst. Atty. Gen. William F. Weld filed a complaint detailing the accusations against Hastings with the federal appeals court in Atlanta. Weld asked that court to begin an investigation under a 1980 law that allows federal judges to investigate alleged wrongdoing by their colleagues. That panel, which could act to prevent cases from being assigned to Hastings, is also considering the allegation.
Hastings was acquitted of bribery in connection with a 1981 FBI sting operation in which a former Washington attorney, William A. Borders Jr., allegedly solicited a bribe to obtain leniency for two suspects awaiting sentencing in Hastings' court. Borders was convicted of bribery but Hastings was acquitted after asserting that Borders used his name without his knowledge.