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Sydney Carton
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"Not Since Nifong"- Stevens Prosecutors in Contempt
« on: February 13, 2009, 06:49:30 PM »

    Judge holds Stevens prosecutors in contempt

By NEDRA PICKLER , 02.13.09, 05:09 PM EST


An angry federal judge held Justice Department attorneys in contempt Friday for failing to deliver documents to former Sen. Ted Stevens' legal team, a rare punishment for prosecutors in a case where corruption allegations have spread to the authorities who investigated him.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said it was "outrageous" that government attorneys would ignore his Jan. 30 deadline for turning over documents.

Last month, Sullivan ordered the Justice Department to provide the agency's internal communications regarding a whistleblower complaint brought by an FBI agent involved in the investigation into the former Alaska senator. The agent, Chad Joy, 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.

Stevens was convicted last October of lying on Senate disclosure documents about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from an Alaska businessman. In November, Stevens lost his bid for re-election to the Senate seat he had held since 1968.

The contempt citation doesn't immediately change anything for Stevens, who remains a convicted felon and is awaiting sentencing. It could help his appeal, however, since it bolsters his lawyers' argument that prosecutors repeatedly withheld evidence from them during the trial.

Sullivan said after the government turns over the documents he's demanded, he will hold further hearings to hear arguments about whether the case was so damaged that Stevens deserves to have his conviction thrown out and a new trial take place.

During Friday's hearing, Sullivan repeatedly asked three Justice Department attorneys sitting at the prosecution's table whether they had some reason not to turn over the documents he asked for. They finally acknowledged they did not, and Sullivan exploded in anger.

"That was a court order," he bellowed. "That wasn't a request. I didn't ask for them out of the kindness of your hearts. ... Isn't the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?"

He said he didn't want to get "sidetracked" by deciding a sanction immediately and would deal with their punishment later. But he ordered them to produce the material by the end of the day.

"That's outrageous for the Department of Justice - the largest law firm on the planet," he said. "That is not acceptable in this court."

Sullivan held all three lawyers in contempt. Two are senior Justice Department attorneys; William Welch is chief of the public integrity section and his principal deputy is Brenda Morris. The third was a new member to the prosecution team, trial attorney Kevin Driscoll.

As Sullivan called them out individually and wrote down their names, he demanded to know who else on their team was involved in withholding the information. Patty Merkamp Stemler, chief of the Justice Department's appellate section, was sitting in the back of the courtroom but stood up and gave her name.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the contempt citations.

Judges rarely hold prosecutors in contempt. The most notable recent case occurred in September 2007, when a North Carolina judge jailed prosecutor Mike Nifong for one day on a contempt charge for lying during the rape case against Duke lacrosse players.

But sanctioning federal prosecutors is even more unusual. A Washington bankruptcy judge did so in 1987, ruling that the Justice Department unlawfully tried to put a financially troubled computer firm out of business. In 1995, a federal judge in Texas held a prosecutor in contempt for refusing to provide him information that had been sealed by another judge.
Sydney Carton
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Re: "Not Since Nifong"- Stevens Prosecutors in Contempt
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2009, 04:45:32 PM »

   The prosecutors are not only in contempt;they just got kicked off the case!
Stevens' prosecutors removed from misconduct proceedings
TRIAL AFTERMATH: Move comes on heels of contempt ruling.


Published: February 16th, 2009 09:12 PM
Last Modified: February 17th, 2009 08:33 AM

The Justice Department said Monday it has removed the legal team that prosecuted former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens from further post-trial proceedings that concern allegations of government misconduct.
   The terse announcement, made as part of a larger filing by prosecutors, leaves questions unanswered about the scope of the decision. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to elaborate.

The latest turn of events in the increasingly bitter and messy aftermath of Stevens' conviction in October follows the contempt ruling against three Justice Department attorneys last week by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia.

Sullivan, who presided over Stevens' trial, cited the lawyers for not following his orders to turn over internal Justice Department files about an FBI whistle-blower to Stevens. Sullivan said he would withhold for the time being a decision about how to punish the government lawyers.

The four-page filing by prosecutors Monday was mainly a public notice that the government had decided to not stand on its claim that the material sought by the defense was protected by attorney work-product privilege, a rule that usually prevents having to turn material over to the other side.

 "In deciding to release these materials to the defendant, the government acknowledges the importance of resolving the pending post-trial motions as expeditiously as possible," the prosecution wrote. "By foregoing any further litigation about the release of these documents, it hopes to avoid distractions and remain focused on the post-trial motions defendant has filed -- motions that include claims of prosecutorial misconduct before and during his trial."

The filing announced the replacement of the original team of attorneys led by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section from "litigation relating to allegations of misconduct in this matter." The team is headed by William Welch, chief of that office, and his main deputy, Brenda Morris, who was the lead attorney in the Stevens trial. Also affected are two other lawyers in that office, Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan, and two on special assignment from the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage, Joe Bottini and James Goeke.

Replacing them will be Paul O'Brien, chief of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, David Jaffe, deputy chief of the Domestic Security Section, and William Stuckwisch, senior trial attorney in the Fraud Section.

Defense arguments of misconduct figure into several demands for a new trial or dismissal of charges by Stevens' attorneys, mainly involving the allegations of Anchorage FBI agent Chad Joy and a witness in the case, Dave Anderson.

Joy, part of the team investigating political corruption in Alaska since 2004, said the lead agent in the probe grew too close to sources and violated policy then, with prosecutors, worked to prevent Stevens from obtaining favorable evidence before and during the trial. Anderson, the government's final witness, said he gave false testimony about a plea deal he believed he had with the government, and that prosecutors knew it.

The government has denied wrongdoing but hasn't publicly answered the allegations in any detail.

The defense cites other issues in its demand for a new trial that have nothing to do with misconduct by prosecutors, such as a decision by the judge to hold the trial in Washington, D.C., instead of Alaska, or juror misconduct. It is unclear whether the initial prosecution team will continue to work on those issues, or what will happen if the judge orders a new trial.

Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer


Sydney Carton
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Re: "Not Since Nifong"- Stevens Prosecutors in Contempt
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2009, 05:28:24 PM »

  Thanks Bill Anderson:

FEBRUARY 20, 2009

Justice for Ted Stevens
Signs of prosecutorial misconduct.

The headlines are gone, and MSNBC no longer cares. But that's all the more reason to take note of the strange and disturbing turn in the Ted Stevens legal saga.[The same applies to Daniel Wade Moore(see Don Valeska thread this day) whose vindication two weeks ago was likewise ignored by the national press which had pilloried him.]
[Review & Outlook] AP

Ted Stevens.

Prosecutors claimed this senior Senatorial scalp last year, winning an ethics conviction a fortnight before the octogenarian Republican narrowly lost his bid for a seventh term from Alaska. Though media interest stopped there, the story has since become one of ambitious prosecutors who at the very least botched the job and may have miscarried justice.

Let's unwind from the end. The Justice Department this week took the highly unusual step of replacing the team handling posttrial litigation in the case. This followed last week's bizarre turn, when the chief of the public integrity section at Justice, William Welch, and his deputy, Brenda Morris -- the federal prosecutors who won the Stevens conviction -- were held in contempt of court. Judge Emmet Sullivan berated the prosecutors for failing to act on his January 21 demand to deliver internal documents to Mr. Stevens's attorneys. "That was a court order, that wasn't a request," he said. "Is the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?"

Those 33 documents relate to a complaint filed December 2 by one of the two FBI agents assigned to the case. Chad Joy claimed prosecutors covered up evidence and tried to keep a witness from testifying. He also said his partner, Mary Beth Kepner, had an unspecified "inappropriate relationship" with the state's star witness, Bill Allen, and other potential witnesses. The government alleged the Senator failed to list on his Senate disclosure forms gifts and home renovation work from Mr. Allen, who ran a large Alaskan oil services company, Veco Corp.

During the trial, Judge Sullivan had also admonished the prosecution for failing to share documents with the defense and redacting exculpatory passages from witness transcripts. Under the so-called Brady rule, Justice isn't obliged to share everything. But in a high-profile case prosecutors usually err on the side of absolute disclosure.

Any one of these prosecutorial missteps may not negate the jury's verdict. Taken together, however, they raise serious questions about possible prosecutorial malpractice. The government's lawyers have angered the judge and given Brendan Sullivan (no relation of the judge) and the rest of the Senator's defense team plenty of ammunition to call for a retrial, if not dismissal. The judge will soon rule on their motion.

One excuse heard at Justice is that prosecutors didn't expect Mr. Stevens to get such a quick trial after his July indictment, and were rushed. That raises the more relevant question -- why was the Senator indicted so close to an election? The Stevens case emerged out of a broader corruption inquiry in Alaska overseen by Alice Fisher, a Bush appointee who headed up the Criminal Division. She left last May. The Stevens indictment was unveiled in July by Matthew Friedrich, tapped by the Bush Administration to run the division. He had served on the Enron task force, helping bring down Arthur Andersen. That verdict was later overturned by the Supreme Court, albeit too late for Andersen. He exited Justice on Inauguration Day, leaving the current mess.

Mr. Welch, the prosecutor, is a career Justice lawyer appointed to his post by Ms. Fisher. In a profile last week in his hometown newspaper, the Springfield, Mass., Republican, he was described as a registered Democrat vying for a promotion to U.S. Attorney in Boston. The day this story appeared, he was found in contempt.

So what we seem to have here are young lawyers eager to make their reputations by bagging a big-name Senator. Justice rules forbid issuing indictments too close to elections. These columns were tough on Mr. Stevens at the time, but the facts that have since come to light cast real doubt on the case. Though Mr. Stevens was a champion earmarker, the government never alleged much less proved that Veco got anything in return from the Senator. The formal charges are a low-grade felony -- in essence, lying on forms. This is not like the charges against William Jefferson or Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

Mr. Stevens will try to overturn the verdict and rebuild his reputation. He is unlikely to get his Senate seat back, even if he wins on appeal or at retrial. But the evidence of prosecutorial malpractice is serious enough to warrant an internal Justice probe, and perhaps judicial sanctions.
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