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Judge to retire after sending racist email

HELENA, Mont. — A Montana federal judge will retire following an investigation into an e-mail he forwarded that included a racist joke involving President Obama.

US District Judge Richard Cebull had previously said he would step down as chief circuit judge and take a reduced caseload, but he informed the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that he now intends to retire May 3.

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The court posted a statement by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski online Tuesday, announcing Cebull had submitted the retirement letter.

The March 29 letter comes after the appellate court’s Judicial Council issued a March 15 order on the investigation into the February 2012 e-mail, but appellate court spokesman David Madden could not say whether Cebull resigned because of the order.

‘‘The misconduct process is confidential,’’ Madden said Wednesday. “I am not privy to what the order said, nor do I know what Judge Cebull’s motivations were.’’

Cebull wrote a letter of apology to Obama and filed a complaint against himself after The Great Falls Tribune published the contents of the e-mail, which included a joke about bestiality and the president’s mother.

The Billings judge forwarded the e-mail from his chambers to six people on Feb. 20, 2012, the paper said.

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