RIP, former senator Ted Stevens.
Stevens received one of the all-time rawest deals from the Department of Justice’s public-integrity section.
[In April], a new team of prosecutors asked Sullivan to dismiss Stevens’s conviction and indictment after uncovering notes from previous prosecutors that contradicted testimony from a key government witness. Under court rules, the notes should have been turned over to defense attorneys before the trial, but Stevens’s legal team did not receive copies until last month. Stevens was convicted in October.
Paul O’Brien, one of the new Justice lawyers, told Sullivan that “we deeply, deeply regret that this occurred.” Laura Sweeney, a department spokeswoman, said officials will review Sullivan’s order “and will continue to cooperate with the court on this matter.”
Yesterday’s court action was the latest twist in the troubled prosecution of Stevens, 85, a Republican from Alaska who narrowly lost his reelection bid eight days after he was convicted of seven counts of lying about $250,000 in gifts he received and free renovations to his Alaska house.
Stevens, who smiled before the hearing as he shook hands with the new prosecutors, told Sullivan that the Justice Department had “nearly destroyed” his faith in the legal system. “Their conduct had consequences for me that they will never realize and can never be reversed,” he said.
During and after the trial, the judge reprimanded prosecutors several times for how they had handled evidence and witnesses. He chastised prosecutors for allowing a witness to leave town. He grew more agitated when he learned that prosecutors had introduced evidence they knew was inaccurate, and he scolded them for not turning over exculpatory material to the defense.
During that time, I figured Stevens was just another crooked pol who had been in Congress too long. But everybody deserves a fair trial, and when potentially exculpatory evidence is withheld from a jury, it’s an injustice.
Had the Department of Justice prosecutors followed the rules, we probably would be mourning a sitting senator today.