Saturday, October 4, 2008

Who Are the Lawyers in the Ted Stevens Trial? (Part One: The Prosecutors)

Live from the Ted Stevens Trial—October 4, 2008

Washington, D.C.--

This trial features two big and powerful teams of attorneys going at each other. The prosecutors are lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice. The defense team comes from Williams &
Connolly, probably the country’s leading law firm for white-collar criminal defense.

Let’s start with the prosecution; the defense comes tomorrow.

If there was a movie made about this trial, you’d have to say that of all the people involved, Brenda Morris is the one individual most likely to play herself. The trial’s lead prosecutor boasts a strong voice that belies her short stature.

Morris is a feisty woman who displays her aggressiveness to good effect. You wonder if—like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin—she played high school basketball with an elbows-out style. Some of the best prosecutors in Alaska have had backgrounds as hard-nosed football or hockey players.

Morris is an African-American native of Washington, D.C. who went to law school at Howard University, a historically black institution. She obviously uses her urban background and status as a woman to appeal to this Washington jury, composed mostly of black women.

She is a 20-year prosecutor who worked at the District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan under the famed Robert Morgenthau, who has held that office since 1975 and is believed to be the model for the original District Attorney portrayed in television’s “Law & Order.”

Morris joined in 1991 the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, and she has risen there from Trial Attorney to Deputy Chief of Litigation to Principal Deputy Chief. In her current job, she supervises 30 attorneys and 11 support staff.

Created in the 1976 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the Public Integrity Section’s mission is to find and prosecute those who have committed “crimes involving abuses of the public trust by government officials.” Those government officials may be elected or appointed, and they may be federal, state, or local.

The Public Integrity Section takes on the major cases that are too hot or conflicted for local offices of U.S. Attorneys to prosecute. All public corruption cases rely heavily on the FBI and IRS for investigative services.

With a relatively tiny budget that is equivalent to a rounding error in the federal budget, the Public Integrity Section has fried some pretty fish. This elite unit has prosecuted the Abscam cases arising in the early 1970s and the cases associated with disgraced uberlobbyist Jack Abramoff that have come up in the past few years.

The Public Integrity Section is handling all the investigations and trials arising out of Alaska-based public corruption scandals—including the trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens—because the U.S. Attorney’s Office responsible for Alaska is recused (or disqualified) from dealing with those matters.

While working as Principal Chief Deputy for the Public Integrity Section, Morris also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law for Georgetown University. The Georgetown Website is the source for all the facts about Morris's background presented above, as the government generally does not spend a lot of effort promoting its career employees.

Nicholas Marsh also represents the United States in court at the Ted Stevens trial. He successfully prosecuted two of the three Alaska state legislators who have gone to trial (all three of those lawmakers were convicted and are now in prison).

Marsh studied philosophy in college and comes across as intellectual, perhaps a little too intellectual-sounding for trial work. As the blogger Steve Aufrecht has pointed out, Marsh resembles Tobey Maguire playing Peter Parker in the Spider-Man movies. There’s the same wonky and sometimes excessively methodical approach, and even some physical resemblance.

The third of the three federal prosecutors who speaks before the jury is Joe Bottini. He is a veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage, and also prosecuted two of the three state lawmakers so far tried in court. Bottini exudes the regular-Joe persona that befits his name, and has walked prosecution key witness Bill Allen thoroughly and effectively through the direct examination.

The other two prosecutors working on the case do not sit at counsel's table while the jury is in court. Edward Sullivan is with the Public Integrity Section, and James Goeke is an Assistant U.S. Attorney normally based in Anchorage. If not back at the office, Sullivan and Goeke sit on a bench behind the prosecutor's table.

So that's the prosecution team. Next up: The defense team.


Asass said...

She is a 20-year prosecutor who worked at the District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan under the famed Robert Morgenthau, who has held that office since 1975 ...

hummm Robert Morgenthau is a cover up for the elite at the highest levels. listen to Former NYPD James Rothstein,you will see how deep it goes she worked there 20 years she knows how the game is played, count on it!

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