In a terse statement today, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich calls the government's decision to drop its charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens "reasonable." This after it was discovered that the Feds didn't turn over an interview with star witness Bill Allen that would have directly contradicted the most incriminating testimony against Stevens during his trial just months ago, in fall 2008.
It's an interview, in fact, that strongly indicates that the Feds (and maybe Allen, too) might have been contriving to make up testimony and evidence against Stevens.
It's "reasonable," according to Begich, to drop charges against Stevens after the Feds were continually excoriated by the judge for misbehavior during the trial and, later on, after the lead prosecutors were held in contempt. Here's Begich's response in full:
Assuming this morning's media reports are accurate, the decision by President Obama's Justice Department to end the prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens is reasonable. I always said I didn't think Senator Stevens should serve time in jail and hopefully this decision ensures that is the case. It's time for Senator Stevens, his family and Alaskans to move on and put this behind us.
It's "reasonable," Begich says, to drop the charges after an FBI agent-turned-whistleblower alleged gross misconduct on the part of the lead investigator in the case.
It's "reasonable" after the federal government nearly ruined a man's life, maybe lost him his job, and certainly bruised his reputation.
Begich also said in his statement that he thinks, "It's time for Senator Stevens, his family and Alaskans to move on and put this behind us."
Easy for Begich to say: Begich, of course, beat Stevens in the election by just a few thousand votes. Makes you wonder what the outcome would have been had Stevens never been charged in the first place, had he not had one hand tied behind his back while running against Begich.
A man's rights were grossly violated by the federal government. As our senator, it's Begich's responsibility to protect Alaskans against such violations and to ensure that those who do so are held accountable. But the way Begich's tepid response is worded , itÂ makes me wonder if he'll extend that protection only as in so long as it doesn't negatively affect him or his political career.
In contrast, this is how Sen. Lisa Murkowski responded today: "Our nation is governed by the rule of law, and violations of our civil liberties cannot be tolerated. Prosecutors and law enforcement have the power to bring the full weight of the government to bear on individuals. If they are willing to bend the law, they put all of our civil liberties at risk."
If Begich is not willing to stand up for one Alaskan after such a gross miscarriage of justice has been committed, then we're all at risk, and maybe Alaskans should band together and demand, at the very least, that Begich take a constitutional law class (at the college level, he never, apparently, had time to get a university degree). At most, maybe we should demand that it's "reasonable" we rethink the election that propelled him into office and do anything but put it behind us.
Amanda Coyne is co-founder of Alaska Dispatch. You can reach her at amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com