The long-awaited internal report from the Justice Department on the botched prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was released on Thursday. This report falls on the heels of and mirrors the report conducted at the request of the judge in the case that was released in March.
For the complete story of how Ted Stevens fell under investigation and the Justice Department botched its probe, read "Crude Awakening," by Alaska Dispatch co-founders Amanda Coyne and Tony Hopfinger.
That 525-page report was compiled by special investigator Henry F. Schuelke III, appointed by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presided over Stevens' 2008 trial. The appearance of prosecutorial misconduct during the trial, which ended with a guilty verdict, spurred an infuriated Sullivan to initiate the investigation after he threw out Stevens' conviction.
The Kafkaesque 670-page report details numerous instances of mistakes, including -- but not limited to -- withholding material that could have exonerated Stevens, made by everyone involved in the prosecution.
But the report lays much of the blame on the two Alaska-based prosecutors engaged, who the report said engaged in “reckless” professional misconduct for failing to disclose information to Stevens’ lawyers that would have been favorable to the defense. It didn’t call the failings intentional, however.
The prosecutors who are taking the fall in the case, Joe Bottini and James Goeke, were the prosecutors from Alaska, far from the political seat of power. DOJ officials recommended a 40-day suspension without pay for Bottini and a 15-day suspension for Goeke.
Stevens had served Alaska for 40 years, making him the longest-serving Republican senator in history. He wielded tremendous power. He lost his seat because of the prosecution -- which came during an election year -- and Alaska arguably lost billions of dollars as a result.
Bottini is still an active prosecutor in Alaska. He is currently prosecuting a high-profile case in Alaska involving militia members. Goeke is now a prosecutor in Washington state.
The others involved in the case and the other DOJ lawyers were exonerated, even though it’s clear in the report that Nick Marsh was responsible for many of the mistakes. Marsh however, committed suicide in 2010 by hanging himself.
No word yet what will become of the lead FBI agent Mary Beth Kepner, who the report said also failed to document numerous interviews or “302s” with lead witness Bill Allen, to turn over other interviews that she had conducted with him, and modified other notes that she had taken after she was ordered to turn them over. She even admitted to “backdating two of the 302s by more than two years, making it appear that they had been prepared the day after the interview when the events would have been fresh in her memory,” the report said.
It’s also unclear what the investigation uncovered about former FBI agent turned whistleblower Chad Joy’s allegations against Kepner because much of the report about those allegations, including the conclusion, is redacted.
Among other things, Joy had alleged in a memo that Kepner accepted gifts from sources, and had been inappropriately close to Allen. He said that she visited him alone in a hotel and wore a skirt for him the day he took a stand. “Kepner does not wear skirts,” Joy wrote.
Joy has since left the FBI.
The report did not satisfy U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Below is an excerpt from a release she sent out following the report:
Above all, what this report does not address is the concerns of many Alaskans and Americans deeply troubled that all this misconduct took place in one of the highest-profile cases in the 200 year history of the Department of Justice. Rather than speak to the possibility of a larger, more systemic problem inside the Justice Department, the Office of Professional Responsibility wants us to believe that this was the inadvertent errors of two lone actors.
Stevens’ lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, and the firm that he works for, was less politic. In a statement signed by three partners in the high powered D.C. firm, the partners called the punishment for the responsible prosecutors “laughable” and “pathetic.” Read the full statement below:
Today the Department of Justice demonstrated conclusively that it is not capable of disciplining its prosecutors. Apparently, prosecutors can violate the Constitution, deny the defendant exculpatory evidence demonstrating innocence, and introduce perjured testimony without any fear that they will be punished. Prosecutors orchestrated a miscarriage of justice in Senator Stevens’ case that caused the Attorney General of the United States to order the case dismissed. Trial Judge Emmet Sullivan declared that the misconduct was the worst he had encountered in 25 years on the bench. The misconduct caused a jury to render an illegal verdict, which in turn resulted in the loss of Senator Stevens’ re-election bid. And, the balance of power shifted in the United States Senate. The punishment imposed is laughable. It is pathetic. No reasonable person could conclude that a mere suspension of 40 and 15 days for two of the prosecutors is sufficient punishment for the wrongdoing found in the report.
Contact Amanda Coyne at Amanda@alaskadispatch.com