U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered today the release on March 15 of the special counsel report into misconduct by federal prosecutors in the trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska).
The court's order came in a 55-page document by turns blistering and scholarly. Judge Sullivan is fed up. He is furious with the failures by the government lawyers to follow their obligations to share evidence with the defense before and during the Ted Stevens trial in 2008. He is bothered that the Justice Department has not released the results of its own Office of Professional Responsibility ("OPR") probe into the prosecutors' handling of the case and the failures in "discovery" (the legal term for sharing evidence in litigation). He is dismissive of the objections to the release of the special counsel's report filed by four of the prosecutors involved in the trial. He is tired of all the delays that have led to continuing litigation over the release of the results of an investigation into the prosecutors' conduct he ordered almost three years ago. (He might even feel some pangs of regret, as he labels the defense's arguments during the trial calling for dismissal of the case or for a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct "persuasive" even though he denied those requests.)
Judge Sullivan ruled that the public had a First Amendment right to the report prepared under the leadership of veteran Washington, D.C. attorney Henry Schuelke. The judge stated:
Mr. Schuelke’s Report chronicles significant
prosecutorial misconduct in a highly publicized investigation
and prosecution brought by the Public Integrity Section against
an incumbent United States Senator. The government’s ill-gotten verdict in the case not only cost that public official his bid for re-election, the results of that election tipped the balance of power in the United States Senate.
Judge Sullivan asserted that the release of the special counsel's report was needed both to uphold the fair administration of justice and to correct incorrect beliefs held by the public about the case. The court's order quotes an earlier judicial decision that stated “Not only is the
information widely known, it is widely known incorrectly.” Except for the identities of those making specific filings on the report's release, the only redacted material in today's 55-page order was a footnote that apparently describes "the wrong or misleading information" given to the public about the case.
We should know soon what is in that footnote to the court's order as well as what's in the 500-page special counsel's report. Judge Sullivan ordered today that the lawyers for the six government attorneys file by March 8 any written comments or objections to the special counsel's report. Those written comments or objections shall be released as addenda to the special counsel's report on March 15 along with an unredacted version of today's order. Barring a successful appeal--which I do not expect--that schedule should hold.