Report on Stevens Trial Sheds Light on Prosecutorial Misconduct
514-page document details witholding exculpatory evidence
An independent report released today revealed “systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence” in the 2008 federal corruption trial of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, perpetrated by the entire prosecution team and the FBI agent assigned to the case.
The evidence “would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’ defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness,” read the report’s executive summary.
The 514-page document covered a two-year criminal contempt investigation by Washington, D.C. attorney Henry F. Schuelke III and analyzed more than 128,000 pages of trial documents and correspondence between prosecutors, agents, witnesses and others involved in the trial.
The U.S District Court Judge presiding over the case had dismissed Stevens’ criminal corruption indictment on April 7, 2009 after U.S Attorney General Eric Holder found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.
Schuelke’s investigation of Justice Department attorneys Joseph Bottini, James Goeke, Nicholas Marsh, Brenda Morris, Edward Sullivan and William Welch revealed far more evidence was withheld during the trial than previously believed.
Much of the report dealt with the prosecution’s handling of key witness Bill Allen, former head of oil field giant VECO who testified against Stevens throughout the 2008 trial.
Just before the 2008 elections, Stevens was indicted on seven counts of falsifying senate financial disclosure forms, and prosecutors said he did so to conceal gifts from Allen and thousands of dollars in free renovations to a Girdwood home owned by Stevens and his wife.
Prosecutors claimed more than $250,000 worth of free repairs and renovations to the home were performed by VECO employees in cooperation with local contractor Christensen Builders.
During opening statements, Stevens’s defense attorney Brendan Sullivan said the senator was unaware any free work was performed on the home because he believed the VECO costs were included in the invoices sent by Christensen Builders. Stevens and his wife, Catherine Stevens, paid more than $130,000 to the company between 2000 and 2002 for the renovation work.
It was one of the first instances of withheld evidence in the trial, Schuelke wrote.
“Mr. Sullivan was not aware when he gave his opening statement, and never learned during or after the trial, that the prosecutors possessed evidence directly corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense,” the report read.
According to Schuelke, prosecutors never disclosed that one of the project’s lead foreman, Rocky Williams, also believed the VECO costs were included in the bills from Christensen Builders. While the Brady v. Maryland precedent mandated the prosecution turn the information over to the defense, Schuelke reported the prosecution team never did.
Instead, only one two-sentence FBI memo referenced the four interviews with Williams conducted in August and September of 2008.
“The only statements by Rocky Williams reported in that 302 were two that were helpful to the prosecution and gave a misimpression of the substance of what Mr. Williams had said during the interviews,” Schuelke wrote.
While Williams told prosecutors he reviewed Christensen Builders’ bills and gave them to Allen to add any VECO costs, prosecutors told the defense attorneys that Williams “did not deal with the expenses and did not recall reviewing Christensen Builders invoices.”