Review of Stevens prosecution nears completion, Holder says

Sean Cockerham | Tribune Media Services

The Justice Department is almost finished with its investigation into misconduct by prosecutors in the 2008 prosecution of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

The inquiry by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is in its "last stages," Attorney General Eric Holder told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. "There is a multi-hundred page report that is just about finalized," he said.

Holder delivered the news as he was being grilled during a Justice Department oversight hearing by senators from both parties who were upset about the Stevens case and wanted to know what the repercussions for prosecutors would be.

"There should have been some real serious corrections done because of what they did to a great U.S. Senator. ... I've never seen a greater injustice to a member of Congress," Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told the attorney general.

The senators urged Holder to make public the upcoming report on prosecutorial misconduct in the case. Holder said it will be up to the Office of Professional Responsibility, but that he's inclined to make the details public.

"What I have indicated was that I want to share as much of that as we possibly can given the very public nature of that matter and the very public decision that I made to dismiss the case," Holder said.

Six Justice Department lawyers have been under investigation for their handling of Stevens' trial, which was part of a wider probe into corruption in Alaska politics. One of those lawyers, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide last year.

A jury in Washington, D.C., found Stevens guilty in October 2008 of lying on financial disclosure forms covering six years in office.

But in 2009 the Justice Department moved to dismiss the charges against Stevens, admitting it failed to turn over evidence to the defense that would have helped Stevens. The prosecution team also faced misconduct allegations from an FBI whistleblower.

Stevens lost his re-election bid just days after the jury handed down the guilty verdict. He died in a plane crash north of Dillingham on Aug. 9, 2010.

"The tragedy of the Stevens situation is that senator Stevens is no longer here to be able to see the result of your examination," said California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein. "This is very important that whatever happened be made fully public and never, never happen again."

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said there was "serious misconduct" by prosecutors in the Stevens case.

Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he hopes the Office of Professional Responsibility will make an exception to its usual practice of not making its findings public.

"It doesn't right whatever wrongs were done then but let us hope it might preclude future wrongs," Leahy said.

A separate investigation into possible criminal charges against the prosecutors was ordered by the judge in Stevens' case, District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Sullivan appointed a special prosecutor, former military judge Henry Schuelke III, to conduct the investigation. No results from that investigation have been announced and it may still be ongoing.

Reach Sean Cockerham at or 257-4344.

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