Justice Department drops charges against ex-senator Stevens
Update at bottom: Holder releases statementThe Justice Department will move to dismiss the corruption conviction it obtained last fall against former Sen. Ted Stevens, according to a motion filed in federal court, because evidence was withheld from his defense lawyers by prosecutors.
NPR reported early Wednesday morning that Attorney General Eric Holder will order the case against the former Alaskan senator dropped rather than continue to try to defend the government's conviction in the face of mounting criticism from the judge in the case over prosecutorial misconduct.
NPR legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg reported that Holder was driven to his decision to ask for a dismissal of the corruption conviction against Stevens because he "was horrified by the failure of prosecutors to turn over all relevant materials to the defense."
From NPR, "A jury convicted Stevens last fall of seven counts of lying on his Senate disclosure form in order to conceal $250,000 in gifts from an oil industry executive and other friends... Since then, charges of prosecutorial misconduct have delayed his sentencing and prompted defense motions for a new trial."
Holder was also reportedly moved to drop the conviction on account of Stevens advanced age (he is 85), the fact that he is no longer a senator (he lost his re-election bid to an eighth full term in the Senate just days after his October conviction).
Adds AP: "The reversal is an embarrassing black eye for the Justice Department, which won a conviction against the Alaska Republican in October and is now asking to overturn it.
"Stevens, 85, the patriarch of Alaska politics since before statehood, lost his re-election bid in November and has been awaiting sentencing. He was the longest serving Republican senator.
"He was convicted of seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a wealthy oil contractor."
MORE FROM AP HERE.
Holder says Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct review of case
Holder statement by way of TPMuckraker:
"In connection with the post-trial litigation in United States v. Theodore F. Stevens, the Department of Justice has conducted a review of the case, including an examination of the extent of the disclosures provided to the defendant. After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial. In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.
"The Department's Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct a thorough review of the prosecution of this matter. This does not mean or imply that any determination has been made about the conduct of those attorneys who handled the investigation and trial of this case.
"The Department of Justice must always ensure that any case in which it is involved is handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice. Under oftentimes trying conditions, the attorneys who serve in this Department live up to those principles on a daily basis. I am proud of them and of the work they do for the American people."
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