More on the Latest News on the Probe of the Ted Stevens Prosecutors
As described last week, the website www.mainjustice.com has reported that two Alaska-based prosecutors face an allegation that the pair “pressured an FBI agent to falsify a summary of his notes from an interview” with a key government witness in the Ted Stevens trial. The report—available at http://www.mainjustice.com/2010/05/13/fresh-allegations-emerge-in-probe-of-stevens-prosecutors/--is the product of leaks regarding an investigation mounted by special counsel of six lawyers who worked on the five-week trial that concluded in October of 2008.
The article says that the special counsel is probing whether Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joe Bottini and James Goeke leaned on the FBI agent to change statements made by Robert “Rocky” Williams, a long-time VECO employee who worked extensively on the renovations to Stevens’ home in Girdwood, Alaska.
These leaks and allegations are just that—allegations that come with no name attached to anybody doing the alleging. Having said that, these allegations help explain why the probe is taking so long. It’s been more than a year since Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the investigation, which was announced at the same hearing in April of 2009 that he ordered the case against the Alaska lawmaker dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct. (There’s a second parallel probe into the government’s handling of the Ted Stevens case; that second investigation is being run by the Department of Justice’s own internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).)
Joe Palazzolo’s report on www.mainjustice.com states that the special counsel—Washington, D.C. lawyer Henry Schuelke—“is said to have finished interviews and gathering evidence, after roughly a year of investigating the circumstances that led to the collapse of the most prominent public corruption case in decades.”
The special counsel’s probe started after the judge in the Ted Stevens trial reviewed a lengthy complaint from an FBI agent who worked as co-lead agent on the “POLAR PEN” investigation into Alaska public corruption. That eight-page document prepared by Chad Joy listed a number of allegations against his co-lead agent Mary Beth Kepner and the Stevens prosecution team, but—as this report notes—Joy’s complaint/grievance did not include this particular accusation of being pressured over the write-up of an interview of Williams.
The report is also interesting in that it points the finger at Alaska-based Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bottini and Goeke, while previous reports have tended to put on the griddle Washington, D.C. Department of Justice lawyers Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan. Particularly damaging to Marsh and Sullivan were filings by former state lawmakers Pete Kott and Vic Kohring quoting e-mail messages by the two government lawyers showing attitudes towards turning over information to the defense that could be construed as contrary to the discovery obligations of prosecutors.
A conspiracy theorist might note the name of the website—www.mainjustice.com—which reflects both the subject covered and the probable source of the leaks that produced this report. If the Department of Justice’s headquarters in Washington is looking for fall guys in this matter, the Alaska-based prosecutors--far from the higher-ups in our nation's capital--might be seen as good choices for those roles.
Palazzolo’s report says that neither the special counsel nor the watchdog unit OPR have indicated when their probes will end. The article notes that when he is done, special counsel Schuelke “faces a difficult decision” about whether to file criminal charges—such as criminal contempt of court—against any of the six prosecutors from the Stevens trial under scrutiny.
Disclosure: I know Joe Bottini slightly and have known him since around the time we both became lawyers in Alaska in the mid-1980s. As I have said before, I know most of the Alaska-based lawyers who have worked for the federal government or in defense of individuals in the “POLAR PEN” probe.