Federal judge Thomas Porteous convicted of corruption and perjury

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The Senate voted on Wednesday to convict U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Louisiana on charges of corruption and perjury, only the eighth judge ever removed from the bench in the nation’s history.

Porteous was tried on four articles of impeachment. The 64-year old native of New Orleans was accused of taking cash gifts and bribes in exchange for favors to lawyers and bondsman having business in his court. Defense attorneys argued that much of the wrongdoing occurred while Porteous was still a state judge, and that accepting gifts and favors were common in the Louisiana legal community.

Porteous said that drinking and gambling led to poor judgement, including taking cash bribes and gifts.

Porteous claimed that he struggled with drinking and gambling problems which ultimately cased his poor judgment. Prosecutors said that Porteous’s corrupt behavior persisted for a period of many years, and included intentionally misleading the Senate during his confirmation hearings.

Two lawyers testified against him, saying that they provided thousands of dollars in cash to help sway decisions in their favor. One of the lawyers admitted to providing $2,000 stuffed in an envelope just before Porteous ruled on a civil case in his favor.

A New Orleans bail bondsman also testified against Porteous, saying that he took the judge on expensive trips, provided lavish meals at expensive restaurants, and had his cars filled with gas and washed. In exchange, the judge would set bail for defendants at the highest amount possible. The bondsman, Louis Marcotte, was convicted on corruption charges and served 18 months in jail.

He is “forever disqualified to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States,” Senate Daniel Inouye said during Wednesday’s Senate hearing. Porteous had sat on the federal bench since 1994, when he was appointed by President Clinton.

While Congress found Porteous guilty, he was not charged with criminal offenses. The Justice Department and FBI conducted an eight-year investigation against him but did not indict him, although the probe led to the House charge of judicial misconduct.

Porteous was suspended with full pay since 2008, but will lose a $174,000 annual federal pension pension because he was convicted before he retired from the bench.

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