Fourth District Judge Ray Harding Jr. Resigns

Fourth District Judge Ray Harding Jr. Resigns

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Fourth District Judge Ray M. Harding Jr., who was fighting drug charges and possible impeachment, has resigned.

In a letter to Chief Justice Christine Durham, Harding resigned and said, "I will not seek judicial office in the future."

The letter was received by the court late Friday afternoon and was read on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives.

"I deeply regret any cloud my personal problems may have passed upon the fine men and women who serve in the judiciary of this state," Harding said in his letter. "The only person responsible for my situation is me."

Harding is facing a March 18 trial for alleged cocaine and heroine possession.

Durham had suspended Harding with pay until his trial ended. He was collecting a salary of $103,000 annually.

Harding's troubles began on July 13, 2002, when his wife called police and turned over a bag containing a sixteenth of an ounce of a white powder. She claimed it was cocaine and that her staggering husband had been up all night using the drug.

Police arrested Harding who pleaded innocent to two third-degree felony charges of drug possession. Each charge carries a maximum of five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Hairs plucked from Harding's head also allegedly tested positive for cocaine and heroin, authorities said.

In October, Harding completed a three-month drug treatment program at the Betty Ford Clinic in California.

On Feb. 17, the Utah House voted to begin impeachment proceedings. The 66-9 House vote began the process, but the lawmakers were waiting to see if Harding resigned or reached a plea agreement in which he permanently leaves the bench.

With the judge's resignation, it's unlikely that the Utah Legislature will continue with plans to impeach Harding, said Rep. Neal Hendrickson, D-West Valley City, who introduced the measure in the Utah House of Representatives.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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