In a “blistering” 500-page report released this morning a special prosecutor concludes that Justice Department lawyers “intentionally withheld” information that could have bolstered then-Sen. Ted Stevens’ defense during the Alaska Republican’s 2008 trial on corruption charges, NPR’s Carrie Johnson tells us.
She adds that Special Prosecutor Henry Schuelke says the case against Stevens was infected by the failure to turn over evidence that could have helped him damage the credibility of the government’s key witness.
Stevens, as Carrie has previously reported for us:
“Was convicted of making false statements and related charges after a five-week trial in 2008. While Stevens was appealing the decision, U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder took the extraordinary step of abandoning the case a year later, after evidence surfaced that the Justice Department team withheld documents from Stevens’ defense that would have helped the former lawmaker poke holes in the account of the key witness against him.”
Among the critical information that prosecutors didn’t share with Stevens’ attorneys:
– Witness Rocky Williams was willing to testify that he “had the same understanding and belief as Senator Stevens and his wife” that the senator had indeed paid for renovation work done on one of his homes.
– Witness Bill Allen, who allegedly had given “benefits and others things of value” to Stevens connected to the renovation work, provided “significant exculpatory information” about Stevens to prosecutors.
In a statement today, the law firm that represented Stevens (Williams & Connolly LLP) says the report shows that “corrupt prosecutors obtained an illegal verdict against Sen. Stevens on October 27, 2008. As a result, a sitting senator lost certain re-election and the balance of power shifted in theUnited States Senate.”
The special prosecutor says, however, that “although the evidence establishes that this misconduct was intentional, the evidence is insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt” that prosecutors violated federal law, “which requires the intentional violation of a clear and unambiguous [judge's] order.”
Stevens and four others died in the August 2010 crash of a small plane while they were on a fishing trip in Alaska. He was 86.
As Carrie tells our Newscast Desk, the government’s actions during the Stevens case have “led to calls for new laws and federal rules to govern prosecutors’ conduct.”