Former federal prosecutor Nicholas Marsh killed himself over the weekend. As an attorney for the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section, Marsh was the senior lawyer on the ground on the federal government's POLAR PEN probe into Alaska public corruption during the period that it was most active. As such, the Washington, D.C.-based attorney played key roles in prosecuting a number of defendants, including then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.
Disclosure of prosecutorial misconduct after the jury returned guilty verdicts in the Stevens trial led to the dismissal of that case. Those relevations of failures to turn evidence over to the defense triggered investigations of Marsh and other government attorneys involved. The judge in the Stevens trial took the highly unusual step of ordering a probe by outside counsel to determine if the discovery violations in that prosecution should lead to criminal charges.
The Department of Justice has also been conducting an internal investigation into the same issues that has led to the government's acknowledgment of prosecutorial misconduct in two other trials, that of former State Reps. Pete Kott (R.-Eagle River) and Vic Kohring (R.-Wasilla). In another highly unusual series of events, Kott and Kohring have been released from prison while courts sort out whether the discovery violations in those cases should lead to their convictions being overturned.
National Public Radio had this story first, and I thank the eagle-eyed Mark Regan for bringing it to my attention. NPR reports that the court-appointed special counsel's report is expected "in a few weeks," and also states that Marsh's lawyer had said that he had not expected that Marsh would be charged.
This is obviously a horrible event. Speculation about Marsh's motivations seems likely to be rampant and excessive: The NPR story includes the sentence "But apparently the strain of the investigation was just too much." It seems better to end on the note sounded by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer: "Our deepest sympathies go out to Nick's family and friends on this sad day. The Department of Justice is a community, and today our community is mourning the loss of this dedicated young attorney."