Senators demand firing of prosecutors in case against Stevens

Senators are pushing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to fire
the prosecutors responsible for the “disgusting” botched criminal case against
the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

The outrage in the upper chamber follows the release last
week of a 525-page report that found the government kept numerous pieces of
evidence from Stevens’s attorney that could have proven his innocence or caused
the case against him to be dismissed.

{mosads}“It’s disgusting that anybody in the Justice Department
would do what they did to him, and it’s really unforgiveable,” said Sen. Orrin
Hatch (R-Utah), a longtime friend of Stevens’s, in an interview. “Ted did not
deserve what happened to him. It was one of the meanest, most despicable things
I’ve ever seen.”

The report from Washington, D.C., attorney Henry Schuelke
found that the government’s case against Stevens was riddled with mistakes.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told The Hill that the two
prosecutors at the heart of the report, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, should
be fired and the DOJ should issue an apology to Stevens’s widow and his
children for putting them through a “fraudulent” trial.

Bottini and Goeke have been transferred out of the public
integrity division of DOJ in response to their involvement in the botched case.

“I think more disciplinary action should be taken strongly
within the department to see that never again this happens,” said Feinstein in
an interview. “I think they owe them an apology and I think they owe them
suitable disciplinary action. … Now, they transferred those prosecutors to
another office. I don’t believe that’s sufficient.”

A request for comment was not returned by the DOJ.

A third attorney, Nicholas Marsh, was also implicated in the
report. Marsh committed suicide in 2010. Bottini told The New York Times last week that he was ashamed of having brought
disrepute to the DOJ and vehemently denied any accusations that he
intentionally misled Stevens’s attorneys.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday announced it would
hold a hearing next week on the Stevens report.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a close friend and political
ally of Stevens’s, has introduced a measure in an attempt to prevent a case
like his from being mishandled in the future.

Her bill, which has garnered the support of Sens. Mark
Begich (D-Alaska), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and
Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), would require prosecutors to face penalties from a
judge if they did not share evidence with the defense.

Inouye is the longest-serving member and was a close friend
of Stevens’s, and Begich won Stevens’s seat in 2008 less than a month after a
jury returned its guilty verdict on the sitting senator.

After a prolonged investigation by the FBI, Stevens was
indicted in 2008 on charges that he failed to disclose gifts from oil
executives. He was convicted about one week before voters went to the polls,
and lost his reelection bid that year.

In his first months as attorney general, Eric Holder moved
to dismiss the indictment against Stevens and set aside the guilty verdict
after reviewing evidence that suggested the DOJ’s witnesses might have perjured
themselves and that the government withheld evidence from the defense

Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010.

The report found that prosecutors inflated the worth of the
home renovations Stevens had done by more than three times the actual value, in
an effort to paint a more egregious offense. Prosecutors withheld evidence from
the defense about the true worth of the renovations, including testimony from
the government’s key witness on the matter, said Stevens’s lawyers.

The prosecution also did not hand over evidence from
Stevens’s defense team that could have discredited the government’s key witness
by calling attention to his alleged relations with a teenage prostitute.

Schuelke did not recommend that criminal charges be brought
against Bottini or Goeke, citing a lack of proof that the prosecutors acted
with intent to hide the evidence from the defense team. Schuelke also noted
that the case’s judge, Emmet Sullivan, did not explicitly order the prosecutors
to turn over all evidence.

“Although the evidence establishes that this misconduct was
intentional, the evidence is insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable
doubt that Mr. Bottini and Mr. Goeke violated the criminal contempt statute …
which requires the intentional violation of a clear and unambiguous order,”
stated the report.

Hatch objected to that line of reasoning, saying the
attorneys surely knew they were keeping evidence from Stevens’s lawyers. He said
he doesn’t blame Sullivan for not issuing a direct order to turn over evidence
to the defense, because it is a practice that has long been observed by

“Oh, they knew. They actually knew that they were taking
testimony that would have helped him,” said Hatch. “[Sullivan] didn’t have to
[issue an order]. That’s a firm principle of criminal law. He shouldn’t have to
do that. I don’t blame the judge.”

A second review of the case being conducted by Justice’s
Office of Professional Responsibility is expected to be completed later this
year. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is pushing for that
report to be released publicly.

This is not the first time there has been an outcry from the
Senate over the Stevens case. Late last year, The Hill reported that a
bipartisan group of senators were clamoring for the DOJ to apologize to
Stevens’s family and fire the attorneys involved.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Eric Holder Lisa Murkowski Patrick Leahy

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