Thursday, March 15, 2012

Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in Ted Stevens Case Released--First Thoughts


I am about halfway through the more than 800 pages of report and rebuttal released this morning.  Here's my first take.    

Start with the obvious.    This report shows that a number of federal prosecutors made serious mistakes that they shouldn't make.   This report is damning to a number of people who worked--or work--at the U.S. Department of Justice by making them look insufficiently attentive to their constitutional obligations to share evidence with the defense in criminal cases.    This report also makes them look subject to pettiness and disorganization in a very big case.

Prosecutors are supposed to turn square corners in our system.    In the words of one court case, prosecutors should strike hard blows but not foul blows.    That didn't happen here, and I am saddened as a lawyer, an American, and an Alaskan that it did not.

Having said that, it goes too far to say that this report proves that Ted Stevens was innocent or that the jury would have acquitted him if all the withheld evidence had been provided to the defense in a timely manner.

This report examines the causes of the discovery failures that led to the overturning of the seven guilty verdicts against then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska) and the dismissal of the charges against him.    The jury returned those guilty verdicts after a five-week trial in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2008.   

At that trial, the federal government presented evidence that Stevens failed to disclose gifts and/or liabilities he had incurred over a number of years by receiving benefits.    

Most of those benefits were in the form of renovations to a home owned by Ted Stevens in Girdwood, Alaska that he called "the chalet" that were shown at trial to have been provided by the now-defunct multi-national oil-services giant VECO and/or its long-time CEO, Bill Allen.    The prosecution alleged that those benefits at the chalet came over roughly a six-year period from 2000 to 2006.   

In addition to those benefits provided by Allen and/or VECO, the government presented evidence that Stevens received other undisclosed benefits provided by other friends over the years.   

The discovery failures detailed in this report undermine some of the prosecution evidence at trial, but not all of it.    Even if the defense had had all of the evidence it was entitled to get, the jury might well have reached guilty verdicts on at least some of the seven counts against him.   That doesn't let the federal prosecutors and agents involved in the Ted Stevens case off the hook, and some will continue to squirm.

More to come.

1 comment:

dingerak said...

Thanks, Cliff, for staying with this story. I've been following you comments on APC for several years and really appreciate your knowledge and perspecitive. Here's what I don't get: Why did the Bush Justice Dept. pursue this case (and then blow it) for a senator like Stevens, who they would normally venerate and protect? Also, why were Stevens and Allen such close friends?