Goodbye!!!

Singing this song (4.1MB mp3) in honor of the departure of Trent Lott (embattled — bah, I don’t have to tell you who HE is!) and the suspension (without pay, woot!) of Matt Zepeda (embattled local judge).

Na, na, na, na
Na, na, na, na
(Sing it with me, children!)
hey, hey, hey
GOODBYE!!

[Both articles reprinted in full below]

TRENT LOTT

HoustonChronicle.com — http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: National
Dec. 20, 2002, 9:43PM

Lott resigns as Senate leader
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Bowing to harsh criticism from fellow senators and the Bush White House, Trent Lott resigned as Senate Republican leader today after colleagues worried about the repercussions of his racially insensitive remarks openly lined up behind Sen. Bill Frist.

“In the interest of pursuing the best possible agenda for the future of our country, I will not seek to remain as majority leader of the United States Senate for the 108th Congress, effective Jan. 6, 2003,” said Lott, whose fall was historically unprecedented on Capitol Hill.

President Bush released a statement hailing Lott’s service and saying he respected “the very difficult decision” the Mississippian had to make.

Lott himself stayed away from the cameras. At his Pascagoula, Miss., home, his wife gave reporters a written statement from Lott saying, “My official written statement was released from Washington at 11 EST. There will be no underlying statement to the television media. Please go home.”

The note, handwritten on U.S. Senate stationary with “Office of the Majority Leader” across the top, was signed “Trent Lott.”

With Lott’s departure, Frist, a close ally of Bush, was the only publicly declared candidate to replace him and quickly emerged as the favorite to do so, lawmakers and aides said.

The Tennessee lawmaker, a wealthy heart surgeon, revealed his candidacy Thursday evening and had garnered public support from several key senators, including Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, No. 2 Senate Republican Don Nickles of Oklahoma, and John Warner of Virginia.

McConnell, a Lott supporter said to be interested in succeeding him, issued a statement saying he would not seek the job and endorsed Frist. GOP lawmakers and aides said Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, another Lott supporter, was considering a challenge.

“If Sen. Santorum is a candidate, I’ll be backing Rick Santorum,” said Sen. Arlen Specter, who also represents Pennsylvania. “I think he’d make an excellent majority leader.”

But several lawmakers and aides said that Frist seemed likely to prevail.

“I think it’s pretty much over,” said one GOP lawmaker speaking on condition of anonymity. “With McConnell and Nickles behind Frist, I think it’s done.”

Nickles, a longtime Lott rival, was the first GOP senator to call for new leadership elections.

The 51 GOP senators who will serve in the next plan to meet Jan. 6 to elect their next leader.

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota called Lott’s resignation “the right decision for Sen. Lott and for the Senate.”

But he said the new GOP leader must “now do more than merely disavow Sen. Lott’s words. He or she must confront the Republican Party’s record on race and embrace policies that promote genuine healing and greater opportunities for all Americans.”

Lott became the first Senate party leader ever to step down in the wake of a wrenching national controversy. “We’ve never had a Senate Republican leader or Senate Democratic leader step down like this before,” said Senate historian Don Ritchie.

Then-Senate Republican leader Bob Dole vacated the job in 1996 to focus fulltime on his presidential candidacy.

Lott’s methodical resignation — a terse statement released from the office of Senate Republican leader here — culminated a weeks-long controversy over Lott’s racially insensitive comments.

His decision amounted to a 180-degree about-face.

Earlier this week, Lott had vowed to stay and fight to keep the top leadership job. His fall followed a tribute that Lott gave earlier this month at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party.

The Mississippian at the time hailed the venerable South Carolinian and said he thought the nation would have been better off if Thurmond had won his campaign for the presidency in 1948. Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat at the time, on a mostly segregationist platform.

Senior Republicans said Lott’s decision caught many senior White House officials by surprise, including top political adviser Karl Rove and political director Ken Mehlman, who were not given advance notice by Lott’s office. As Lott’s decision leaked to news organizations, his office informed the White House that the senator was leaving his leadership post but not the Senate.

Despite speculation that Lott would demand a committee chairmanship or some other consolation prize, he stepped down with no strings attached, one official said the White House was told.

Lott, 61, has been the Senate GOP leader since 1996, when Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., left the Senate to devote full time to his unsuccessful presidential bid.

At the Thurmond birthday party, Lott said: “I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years either.”

The remarks drew immediate criticism from black leaders and Democrats. They were quickly joined by conservatives worried that the comments would create a distracting firestorm that would harm the White House’s and GOP’s efforts to advance their legislative agenda.

Incoming House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said that Lott’s stepping down was an “important step” but that Republicans still needed to do more to address the issue of race.

While Lott initially attempted to stomp out the controversy with a terse press release and telephone interviews on radio and television, it began to spin out of control after Bush issued a forceful denunciation of his remarks last week.

Fearing Lott’s comments had hurt the party and his own re-election prospects, Bush called the remarks “offensive” and “wrong.” At the same time, he instructed White House spokesman Ari Fleischer to say Lott should not resign.

***

MATT ZEPEDA

State justices suspend Zepeda

By Michael Wright
The Facts

Published December 18, 2002

Pearland Justice of the Peace Matt Zepeda is again out of office awaiting the disposition of a complaint filed against him for cursing one inmate and using a racial slur toward another.

The Texas Supreme Court, acting on a request from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, suspended Zepeda indefinitely without pay Monday.

?The judge?s suspension takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until the formal charges pending against him with the commission have been finally resolved,? the commission said in a news release.

Zepeda did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Margaret Reaves, executive director of the commission, said the date of the formal hearing has not been set. After the hearing, before either the commission or a special master, the commission will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court on Zepeda?s ultimate fate as judge.

After the tapes surfaced in late October, Zepeda took a paid leave of absence. He returned to work after a Dec. 5 hearing before the commission.

Quannell X, leader of the New Black Panther Party, said he was pleased by the court?s action.

?I believe that the state Supreme Court did the right thing,? he said. ?He had absolutely disgraced the opportunity of being an officer of the court.?

However, Quannell X, who has publicly called for Zepeda?s resignation, accused the commission of dodging its duty.

?I believe that the judicial commission should have done the right thing when they had the chance to do so,? he said.

Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne, who has said Zepeda?s remarks threaten the integrity of the judicial system, said she?s pleased with the path the case has taken.

Yenne said Zepeda is entitled to due process of the system, even as he is being accused of denying due process to others.

?It shouldn?t bother us that due process takes some time,? Yenne said.

As for the suspension itself, Yenne said she wasn?t surprised.

?This has been my perspective all along,? she said. ?This is what I believed would happen.?

Justices of the peace are charged with setting bond on prisoners, presiding over small claims trials, conducting death inquests and issuing arrest warrants.

They make $52,599 annually, plus a $6,000 annual car allowance.

When Zepeda returned from his leave of absence, Yenne asked police departments not to magistrate prisoners through him.

During Zepeda?s suspension, the other seven justices of the peace in the county will pick up his workload.

The video surveillance tape, turned over by Pearland police to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, shows Zepeda screaming at an inmate who had asked the judge a question.

Zepeda told the inmate he had no rights and threatened to leave him in jail overnight if the inmate made him angry.

In a separate incident, Zepeda is seen berating another inmate for not rising from his bunk fast enough when the judge approached his cell.

?Hey, don?t (expletive) with me,? Zepeda said. ?I?m the judge. Get over here right now if you don?t want additional charges. You gonna act like a (racial slur)??

Zepeda later told a Pearland officer he thought the inmate was black.

The videotaped incidents happened several months apart.

http://thefacts.com/story.lasso?WCD=6186
Copyright ? 2002 The Facts

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