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Stevens prosecution team won't face criminal charges

Lisa Demer

A 2 1/2 year investigation into the bungled prosecution of then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens found widespread and sometimes intentional misconduct by Justice Department attorneys in that and other Alaska corruption cases. But the special prosecutor who led the review isn't recommending they face any criminal charges.

The conclusions of Washington lawyer Henry F. Schuelke were revealed Monday by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presided over Stevens' Washington, D.C., trial in the fall of 2008.

The special prosecutor's full 500-plus page report remains under seal, though Sullivan said he expects it to become public after the various players are given a chance to review it and ask for certain parts to remain shielded from the public.

Stevens was convicted on seven counts of lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms, which prosecutors contended he did to conceal gifts from Bill Allen, then the head of oil field services contractor Veco Corp.

In April 2009, after prosecutors admitted serious missteps, Stevens' convictions were thrown out. Sullivan then appointed Schuelke to evaluate whether anyone on the Stevens prosecution team should be charged with criminal contempt of court.

Some of the questionable government behavior revolves around the handling of Allen as a government witness. He testified against Stevens and two state legislators, but prosecutors withheld crucial information from defense lawyers about sexual abuse allegations against Allen that if revealed to jurors, could have affected his credibility.

Schuelke and a colleague reviewed more than 150,000 pages of documents, interviewed numerous witnesses, and examined the record not only of the Stevens' case but also the federal cases against former state House Speaker Pete Kott and former Rep. Vic Kohring.

They also reviewed evidence that came up in the investigation of Josef "Joe Millionaire" Boehm, the Anchorage hardware chain owner charged in 2004 with trading crack cocaine to juvenile girls in exchange for sex. One of Boehm's original co-defendants, and eventually his chief accuser, was Bambi Tyree, then 23. According to evidence developed by Anchorage police and the FBI in the Boehm case -- but not made public at the time -- Tyree had sex with Allen when she was 15, and then, at Allen's request, later swore it didn't happen.

The special prosecution team concluded that the prosecution of Stevens was "permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated his defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government's key witness," Sullivan wrote, quoting the report.

Schuelke and his colleague, William Shields, found evidence of "concealment and serious misconduct that was previously unknown and almost certainly would never have been revealed -- at least to the Court and to the public -- but for their exhaustive investigation," the judge wrote.

Still, the bad behavior doesn't rise to the level of criminal contempt, because Sullivan never issued a direct order in the Stevens trial that was disobeyed by the federal attorneys, the special prosecutor concluded.

The criminal investigation targeted prosecutors Brenda Morris, Joseph Bottini, James Goeke, Edward Sullivan, and William Welch. Welch supervised the Justice Department's Public Integrity section, which handles corruption cases. Morris and Edward Sullivan worked for Welch, while Bottini and Goeke were on loan to the prosecution from the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage, which otherwise was excluded from the cases.

Another Public Integrity attorney who was a subject of the investigation, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide last year.

Attorneys for Edward Sullivan and Morris said Monday that a separate, internal Justice Department investigation cleared them of misconduct.

Edward Sullivan wasn't even on the Stevens trial team and shouldn't have been investigated in the first place, his lawyer, Brian Heberlig said in a written statement.

"Indeed, the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility fully exonerated Mr. Sullivan in its own investigation of this matter and the Department has brought Mr. Sullivan back to the Public Integrity Section to resume his career as a prosecutor," Heberlig said.

The Office of Professional Responsibility hasn't released the results of its investigation.

Earlier this month, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Attorney General Eric Holder on when the internal Justice Department inquiry would be done.

"OPR -- the Office of Professional Responsibility is looking into this matter. They are at the last stages of their examination of what happened in connection with the Stevens' case," Holder told the senators. "There is a multi-hundred page report that has -- is just about finalized. And I think we will -- we will get -- we will see what their conclusions are."

The Justice Department is reviewing Sullivan's order, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Stevens, who lost his bid for re-election the week after the guilty verdicts, was killed in a plane crash in 2010.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.


By LISA DEMER
Anchorage Daily News