Feds drop case against former Sen. Stevens

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Need A Win...By any means necessary Staff Member

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    By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writer – 7 mins ago

    WASHINGTON – The Justice Department said Wednesday it would drop corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens because prosecutors withheld evidence from the senator's defense team during his trial.

    The reversal is an embarrassment for the department, which won a conviction against the Alaska Republican in October and is now asking to overturn it.

    The week after his conviction, Stevens lost his Senate seat in the November election. The patriarch of Alaska politics since before statehood, Stevens, 85, was also the longest serving Republican senator.

    He has been awaiting sentencing.

    Stevens was convicted of seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a wealthy oil contractor.

    The trial was beset by government missteps, which continued even after the guilty verdict was read. The trial judge grew so infuriated he took the unusual step of holding the Justice Department in contempt.

    In court filings, the Justice Department admitted it never turned over notes from an interview with the oil contractor, who estimated the value of the renovation work as far less than he testified at trial.

    "I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released Wednesday. He said the department must ensure that all cases are "handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice."

    The Justice Department is investigating the conduct of the prosecutors who tried the Stevens case.

    Sen. Mark Begich, the Democrat who won Stevens' seat away from him, called the decision to drop the case "reasonable."

    "I didn't think Senator Stevens should serve time in jail and hopefully this decision ensures that is the case," Begich said in a statement.

    In December, Stevens asked a federal judge to grant him a new trial or throw out the case, saying his trial had many deficiencies.

    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan held Justice Department lawyers in contempt in February for failing to turn over documents as ordered. He called their behavior "outrageous."

    Sullivan had ordered Justice to provide the agency's internal communications regarding a whistle-blower complaint brought by an FBI agent involved in the investigation of Stevens. The agent objected to Justice Department tactics during the trial, including failure to turn over evidence and an "inappropriate relationship" between the lead agent on the case and the prosecution's star witness.

    The Justice Department has since assigned a new team of prosecutors to the case.

    Reached at his office early Wednesday by the Anchorage Daily News, Stevens' lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, told the newspaper he had not yet been informed of the decision by Justice.

    Messages for Stevens' lawyers from The Associated Press were not returned early Wednesday morning.

    The decision was first reported Wednesday by National Public Radio.

  2. JBond

    JBond Well-Known Member

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    The guy is still a crook.
  3. ShiningStar

    ShiningStar Well-Known Member

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    Yup, still a crook and not fair.
  4. Dallas

    Dallas Old bulletproof tiger

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    Attorney general drops Stevens prosecution


    Anchorage Daily News

    Published: April 1st, 2009 04:54 AM
    Last Modified: April 1st, 2009 09:45 AM

    WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department moved to dismiss former Sen. Ted Stevens' indictment this morning, effectively voiding his Oct. 27 conviction on seven counts of filing false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms.The decision by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder comes after a new prosecution team discovered a previously undocumented interview with the star witness in the case that sharply contradicted the most dramatic testimony in the four-week trial. The information had never been turned over to the defense, the Justice Department said in its motion.

    "After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial, Holder said in a statement released this morning. "In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial."

    The government is seeking dismissal of the charges "with prejudice," meaning that they cannot be filed again.

    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered a hearing on the government's motion for April 7.

    "I always knew that there would be a day when the cloud that surrounded me would be removed," Stevens said in a written statement this morning. "That day has finally come. It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair. It was my great honor to serve the state of Alaska in the United States Senate for 40 years."

    Stevens was reported to be traveling in Alaska today and not immediately available for an interview.

    Stevens' lawyers, in a separate statement, decried the "corrupt" conduct of attorneys and the FBI in the case, though it said Holder and the new prosecution team, along with Sullivan, the trial judge, were "heroes" for bringing the information to light.

    "This jury verdict was obtained unlawfully," said the statement by Washington-based law firm of Williams & Connolly and the two attorneys who led the defense team, Brendan Sullivan and Robert Cary. "The misconduct of government prosecutors, and one or more FBI agents, was stunning."

    It was their first statement to reporters since they began representing Stevens at least two years ago.

    The dramatic testimony that brought down the case after months of post-trial wrangling came Oct. 1 during the second day on the witness stand of Bill Allen, the chairman of the defunct oil-field services company Veco Corp. It was the fifth day of a trial that would run more than a month.

    Allen had described how he had spent tens of thousands of dollars renovating Stevens' home in Girdwood starting in 1999 - gifts that Stevens never disclosed. On Oct. 6, 2002, Stevens sent a handwritten note to Allen asking that it be "done right" - he wanted to pay for Veco's services. He told Allen that their mutual friend in Girdwood, Double Musky restaurant owner Bob Persons, would talk to him about the matter.

    "You owe me a bill," the note from Stevens said. "Remember Torricelli, my friend. Friendship is one thing, compliance with the ethics rules entirely different." Robert Torricelli was a New Jersey senator who got into trouble in 2002 for accepting improper gifts from a donor.

    Allen testified that he had a conversation a short time later with Persons. But Persons told him the note from Stevens shouldn't be taken seriously, Allen said.

    "Don't worry about getting a bill - Ted's just covering his ***," Allen quoted Persons as saying.

    The Allen statement came at the close of testimony for the day.
    With the jury out of the courtroom, a defense attorney yelled foul, saying that in all the material turned over to the defense by the government under fair-trial rules, there was nothing from Allen quoting Persons like that. The defense accused the government and Allen of conspiring to make up the testimony. Even worse, they said, was that Allen's testimony came at the end of the day, leaving the jury to ponder it, unchallenged, overnight.

    The newly discovered interview wasn't transcribed in the usual way, the Justice Department said this morning. Rather, it was discovered in the notes of attorneys who questioned Allen on April 15, 2008.

    "The notes of the April 15 interview indicate that Bill Allen said, among other things, in substance and in part, that he (Bill Allen) did not recall talking to Bob Persons regarding giving a bill to the defendant," the Justice Department said in its motion to dismiss the case. "This statement by Allen during the April 15 interview was inconsistent with Allen's recollection at trial where he described a conversation with Persons about the Torricelli note."

    The interview notes also say that Allen thought the market value of Veco's work on Stevens' home was about $80,000. The government introduced evidence from Veco's bookkeeping that suggested it was worth about $250,000, though the judge threw out some of that evidence because it proved to be wrong.

    "Defendant Stevens was not informed prior to or during trial of the statements by Bill Allen on April 15, 2008," the department's motion for dismissal said. "This information could have been used by the defendant to cross examine Bill Allen and in arguments to the jury."

    In his statement, Holder didn't say precisely what he meant by the "interests of justice" dictating that Stevens not undergo a new trial. But Stevens' lawyers had argued that government misconduct was so extreme that the only remedy for the judge was to completely dismiss the case.

    Stevens, who is 85, lost his re-election bid in November to the former Anchorage mayor, Democrat Mark Begich.

    Since Stevens' conviction, the former senator's lawyers have filed several motions to outright dismiss his original indictment or to grant Stevens a new trial. Their motions have been based in part on allegations in a whistle-blower complaint by an Anchorage FBI agent, and other allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that were emerged after Stevens' conviction.

    The complaint by agent Chad Joy said prosecutors deliberately withheld information from Stevens' defense team.

    The government appointed a new team of prosecutors when Judge Sullivan held in contempt the chief trial lawyer, Brenda Morris, and her boss at the Public Integrity Section, William Welch, in contempt for failing to turn over material to the defense uncovered in the investigation of Joy's allegations. It was the new team, led by Paul O'Brien, chief of the Narcotics an Dangerous Drugs Section, that last week discovered the April 15 meeting with Allen, the Justice Department said.

    The Justice Department immediately turned over the notes of the April 15 meeting to the defense, it said.

    Holder said that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility "will conduct a thorough review of the prosecution of this matter."

    "This does not mean or imply that any determination has been made about the conduct of those attorneys who handled the investigation and trial of this case," he said. "The Department of Justice must always ensure that any case in which it is involved is handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice. Under oftentimes trying conditions, the attorneys who serve in this Department live up to those principles on a daily basis. I am proud of them and of the work they do for the American people."
    Stevens' lawyers said Judge Sullivan was key to uncovering the misconduct by the Justice Department in the case.

    "Judge Sullivan gave the defense the ability to press for evidence of misconduct," the statement said. "When he did so, more and more evidence came to light, including the most recent revelation about false testimony. Had Judge Sullivan accepted the word of government prosecutors as is done often in our courts, the extraordinary misconduct would never have been uncovered, and the trial verdict might have survived appellate review. Judge Sullivan prevented such a tragic outcome."

    Rep. Don Young, who as Alaska's sole congressman, spent 30 years working with Stevens, said he thought "justice has finally been served."

    "It's a shame that Alaskans lost one of the best lawmakers they've ever had last year over a false conviction but his legacy in Alaska will always live on," he said. "I join my fellow Alaskans today in standing by Ted and congratulating him and Catherine on the courage they've shown throughout this ordeal and the end of this difficult journey."

    Stevens' replacement, Begich, said in a statement that "the decision by President Obama's Justice Department to end the prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens is reasonable."

    "I always said I didn't think Senator Stevens should serve time in jail and hopefully this decision ensures that is the case," he said. "It's time for Senator Stevens, his family and Alaskans to move on and put this behind us."
    Sen. Lisa Murkowski, now Alaska's senior senator, said in a statement, "I was pleased with the news that the Justice Department will drop all charges against Senator Ted Stevens, but I am deeply disturbed that the government can ruin a man's career and then say 'never mind.' There is nothing that will ever compensate for the loss of his reputation or leadership to the State of Alaska."

    Murkowski decried the violation of Steven's rights. "Our nation is governed by the rule of law, and violations of our civil liberties cannot be tolerated," she said. "Prosecutors and law enforcement have the power to bring the full weight of the government to bear on individuals. If they are willing to bend the law, they put all of our civil liberties at risk."

    The Senate Republican Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called the Justice Department's move "a relief to Stevens and his family." But he also said that had the Justice Department acted last year, before the election, Republicans might not have lost the seat. It would give Democrats -- who have 58 seats in the Senate and are likely to gain a 59th -- one less seat toward a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority.

    "It was disappointing to lose the seat, no question about it," McConnell said. "No question that if this decision had been made last year he'd still be in the Senate."
  5. Dallas

    Dallas Old bulletproof tiger

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    Before making blanket comments. You might want to go read what happened in the trial and how the government handled itself.

    This never would have happened w/o the FBI agent turning over on his superiors on what was going on w/ the witnesses and Bill Allen against Stevens.

    I guess he is a crook. At the end of the day when its all said and done and the reciepts were counted. They say he got a BBQ and a Shiatzu massage chair out of the whole thing.

    The paper said he had reciepts in acccess of 180k dollars he paid Bill Allen to jack his little house up and do the extra addition.

    I say little. It's now 2100sq. ft.

    I know Ted and he is a genuine and very honest man. He fought tooth and nail to get Alaska its statehood and did much more for Alaska than any person ever has. It's a shame that this happened to him.

    He should have filed the BBQ and chair, I agree. That was wrong. The government was trying to prove that he had hidden thousands and thousands of dollars in repairs by Veco Corp. that just never materialized.
  6. TheCount

    TheCount Pixel Pusher

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    Don't take it too personal, I think the reactions have more to do with the story than the people. How well do you know him, do you tease him about the internet tubes thing? I sure would. ;)
  7. Bob Sacamano

    Bob Sacamano Benched

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    careful, Dallas is territorial about his fellow Alaskians
  8. JBond

    JBond Well-Known Member

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    I apologize. I did not know those things. I bought in hook line and sinker on the way the story was consistently presented by the main stream media. I should have done my own research before making that type of off hand remark. In light of what you posted, the prosecution of the Senator was way out of hand. This whole thing came down to a BBQ and a chair? Crazy.
  9. Dallas

    Dallas Old bulletproof tiger

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    I would do the same for you. I am not saying that Mr. Stevens is a perfect senator. I am sure during his 40 years in the senate there was some things to raise your eyebrows over.

    This case however was just a railroad job from the start.

    Sadly it cost him the election. That was all I was trying to say. I wasn't meaning to disrespect anyone.

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