Judge orders that Stevens' lawyers get pile of paper data

LOWER TECH: The defense first got electronic versions of possible evidence.

September 13, 2008 

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Stevens' legal team complained that government lawyers had given them unwieldy electronic versions of more than 15,000 potential pieces of evidence in the Alaska Republican's corruption trial.

Now, they'll be flooded with paper.

A federal judge ordered that government lawyers turn over nearly everything on paper so that Stevens' lawyers can have it in a more workable format this weekend in time to prepare for the senator's Sept. 24 trial.

"You'd have the same complaints if they gave you that information (in the same way), the same complaints," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Justice Department prosecutors Friday during an emergency hearing called just a few hours before it began.

Stevens, 84, faces seven felony counts of knowingly taking home repairs and gifts worth more than $250,000 from the now-defunct oil-services company Veco Corp. and failing to report them on his annual Senate disclosure forms. Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 22 and the trial is scheduled to start two days later.

In their motion, filed Friday morning, Stevens' lawyers, Alex Romain and Robert Cary, complained that the government's "gamesmanship and 'hide-the-ball tactics' undermine the fairness of the upcoming trial."

Their specific complaint was that the government produced 15,038 pages without "load files," the electronic equivalent of staples, paper clips and folders. There's no way to differentiate where one document begins and ends, Stevens' lawyers said.

They also were concerned that some electronic files were "locked," which means they cannot search them electronically. To find a specific document in a 1,608-page electronic file taken from Veco computers, they must read the whole thing because they cannot search it electronically by key word.

Prosecutors were clearly frustrated with Stevens' lawyers, although they stopped short of using the "gamesmanship" language employed by the defense team. His lawyers' concerns could all have been addressed without the emergency hearing, argued Brenda Morris, the lead federal prosecutor.

"Just because he has 'U.S. Senator' before his name doesn't mean we have to drink out of a fire hose every time they call us," she said.

Not so fast, scolded Sullivan, who just prior to the Stevens hearing heard a petition from a Guantanamo detainee who had been on a hunger strike for three years and whose lawyers were trying to wrest their client's medical records from the government. Stevens is getting the same deference all defendants get in his courtroom, Sullivan said, although the senator's request for a speedy trial before the election has moved things at a brisker pace than most criminal trials.

"This defendant's not being treated any differently than anyone else," Sullivan said. "No other cases have been moved. I wouldn't do that for anyone. I wouldn't do that for anyone because of their status."

But Sullivan seemed to be slightly annoyed too. On Wednesday, he told the lawyers to work out their disputes among themselves and not bother him with trivial quarrels over evidence, and he told them he wished they had tried harder to avoid such hearings.

He was less sympathetic to a request by Stevens' lawyers to receive detailed evidence about when investigators questioned certain witnesses. There's no precedent for them receiving what are known as "form 302s," documents that detail the information gleaned by FBI agents when they interview witnesses, including the time and place. They've already given Stevens' lawyers a list that has much of that information, Morris said.

"Yet another example of drinking out of that fire hose," she said.

Stevens' lawyers indicated that when Sullivan holds a hearing next week to discuss what evidence will be allowed at trial, they will work to exclude some photographic evidence. They've asked for the metadata on thousands of photos taken the day FBI and IRS agents raided Stevens' home in Girdwood.

They plan to have an expert who has written a textbook on crime scene photography explain how certain camera angles and lenses could make the home appear larger than it actually is, Cary said, describing it as a "small log cabin."

Isn't it a "chalet"? asked Sullivan.

"It's a chalet, but it's modest," Cary said.

"We didn't call it a chalet, they called it a chalet," Morris said, adding that investigators "didn't take pictures to make it look better."

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