No charges recommended against Stevens prosecutors
“The court accepted the repeated representations of the subject prosecutors that they were familiar with their discovery obligations, were complying with those obligations and were proceeding in good faith.”
The prosecutors will not be prosecuted.
A special counsel in Washington, D.C., says charges should not be brought against U.S. Justice Department attorneys who illegally withheld evidence in the corruption trial of the late Sen. Ted Stevens.
The trial judge, Emmett Sullivan, appointed Henry Schuelke to investigate whether criminal contempt of court charges should be brought against six government lawyers who handled the ill-fated Stevens prosecution.
Schuelke finds “systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence” that would have corroborated Stevens' defense and testimony.
Nevertheless, Schuelke says the attorneys should not be prosecuted because Sullivan did not explicitly order them to follow the law on sharing evidence that is favorable to the defense.
The judge issued an order describing the six-week process for determining what portion of Schuelke's 500-page report should be made public.
As part of that order, the judge revealed Schuelke's conclusion: that no charges should be brought against the DOJ attorneys in the Ted Stevens case because the violation of an explicit order would be needed to establish criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sullivan wrote: “The court accepted the repeated representations of the subject prosecutors that they were familiar with their discovery obligations, were complying with those obligations and were proceeding in good faith.”
Cliff Groh, a former prosecutor who has blogged about the public corruption probe for years, says it might have been too hard to assign individual responsibility in a section of the Justice Department that long has been accused of bending the rules on sharing evidence.
"The key word there is systematic. There apparently is a belief that there were so many people involved, and the collapse of the Ted Stevens case led to an orgy of finger-pointing among government attorneys that continues to this day, that's gone on for well over two and a half years now."
Groh noted that Schuelke offered no opinion on whether the lawyers could be charged with obstruction of justice.
"That is saying to the department of justice, 'if you want to prosecute these prosecutors, these government attorneys, for some other crime, go ahead.' "
For Ray Metcalfe, who has been pushing federal and state officials to pursue corruption cases against politicians for years, the lack of prosecution is a setback.
"I kind of hoped that DOJ would take the attitude, 'ok, now we've cleaned up our mess, back to the investigations.' and there were some very serious investigations out there, in addition to what the public knows about, that were dropped, or as near as I can tell were dropped."
And Groh says some “what if's” remain.
"One of the questions here, that a lot of Alaskans have, is what would have happened if the department of justice had played this case completely straight. Would Ted Stevens have been convicted anyway?"