Senator who threw punch doesn't expect expulsion
MONTGOMERY (AP) — The Alabama Senate blow seen around the world has resulted in a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee over the conduct of Sen. Charles Bishop, who threw the punch, but Bishop figures there won't be enough votes to expel him.
The Ethics Committee, which hopes to get organized this week, could take any kind of disciplinary action ranging from a warning to recommending Bishop's expulsion.
Bishop, R-Jasper, said Monday some members of the Senate's Democratic majority would like to expel him or force him to quit over hitting one of its leaders, Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe.
"That group would like to see me gone, no doubt about that," Bishop, 69, said in an interview.
But he said he plans to file his own ethics complaint accusing Barron of calling him a "son of a bitch" before the blow. He said he had "absolute evidence" to back up the claim.
Barron did not immediately return telephone messages left on his cell phone and at his business and legislative offices Monday. An aide said the 65-year-old senator was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Bishop hit Barron with a fist to the head during a heated exchange at Barron's desk Thursday, the final day of the 2007 session. The blow, captured by Alabama Public Television, quickly became one of the most popular videos in the world, showing up on news media Web sites, on international television and on YouTube.
A state official who has known both men for more than 25 years said Monday he feels sorry for both senators because their accomplishments are being overshadowed by the video.
"It concerns me that a tarnish could go with these gentlemen that neither one deserves," state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said. "Both of these are good guys who have good hearts who want to help people."
Sparks, a Democrat, previously served as assistant commissioner of agriculture under Bishop from 1999-2003, and he grew up around Barron in Northeast Alabama.
After the blow Thursday, Barron and four other senators filed the complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee. On Monday, an Ethics Committee member, Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said he forwarded the complaint to Bishop, who has 15 days to respond. The committee, which has not yet met, hopes to get together this week to elect a presiding officer and decide how to proceed, said another member, Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland. Benefield said any comment beyond that would be inappropriate until the committee reviews the complaint.
Under the Senate's rules and the Alabama Constitution, the committee can do anything from nothing to issuing a warning to recommending the Senate take more drastic action, including voting to expel Bishop, committee member Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said Monday.
Doing nothing or issuing a warning would require the vote of three of the five members. Recommending the Senate do anything stronger, including expulsion, would take four votes.
Bishop said he doesn't expect an expulsion recommendation because the Senate's Democratic majority only has three members on the Ethics Committee and the minority, of which he's part, has two members.
"I don't think they'll be able to do it in this situation," Bishop said.
But if four committee members should vote together, then it would take a two-thirds vote of the Senate to expel Bishop, Little said.
Sen. Bobby Denton, who signed the complaint against Bishop and separated him from Barron after the punch, said he doesn't think Bishop should be expelled. But he said the Senate should tighten its rules about senators' conduct and should make it clear that a second act of violence would result in expulsion.
If he is expelled, Bishop said, "it will be enjoyable to go into their districts and raise money and tell the people what kind of senator they've got."
Barron and another Democratic senator who was standing beside Barron's desk, Parker Griffith of Huntsville, say Barron never used the offensive language.
"I want you to know that I was standing less than two feet from the two men and Senator Barron did not use any profanity at any time to cause this incident," said Griffith, who signed the ethics complaint against Bishop.
Denton said Monday he's unsure what was said by Barron, but he heard Bishop use plenty of profanity.
Bishop said Thursday and against Monday that he shouldn't have hit Barron on the Senate floor but that Barron and other members of the Democratic majority had been trying to provoke him during a three-month-long disagreement over the Senate's operating rules.
He said they wanted to "run me out of the Senate because I've been a thorn in their side."
On the Net
To see the Senate scuffle on video, go to www.de caturdaily.com. Click on one of the AP videos on the home page; then search for “Alabama Senate.”
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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