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Release of report on botched Ted Stevens case could be delayed

  • Author: Amanda Coyne
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published March 8, 2012

Those who have been awaiting the report detailing the Department of Justice's botched prosecution of the late Sen. Ted Stevens may have to wait some more.

The report is scheduled to be released on March 15, but one of the prosecutors in the Stevens case, Edward Sullivan, has appealed the release of the report to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The judge who oversaw the trial, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan (no relation to Edward Sullivan), has so far refused to "stay," or delay the release, but the appeals court could order him to do so.

After the guilty verdict against Stevens was thrown out in 2009 following revelations of prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Sullivan appointed a special prosecutor, Henry "Hank" Schuelke III, to determine what happened and whether any federal prosecutor on the Stevens case should be charged for criminal contempt. In his order to release the report as well as other orders, Sullivan wrote about "the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence" and "widespread and at times intentional misconduct" by Justice Department lawyers during the prosecution of Stevens.

On March 1 Judge Sullivan unsealed documents that identified Edward Sullivan as asking for the appeal in the D.C. Circuit. But the substance of the appeal itself remains sealed.

All of the prosecutors and at least one FBI agent involved in the botched prosecution have been allowed to hire private lawyers on the taxpayers' dime to defend themselves. USA Today reported in early February that these costs have totaled $1.8 million. That was before Edward Sullivan's appeal, which the government is also paying for.

None of this sits well with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. On Thursday Murkowski asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about whether or not taxpayers should be picking up the costs for federal prosecutors who are accused of intentional misconduct. Holder said that there is precedent for the Justice Department to pay for private lawyers to defend government prosecutors. Murkowski said the fact that taxpayers are spending so much money defending the federal lawyers was "just stunning to me."

In his order to release the report, Judge Sullivan said that the actions of the Justice Department cost Stevens his Senate seat.

"The government's ill-gotten verdict in the case not only cost that public official his bid for re-election, the results of that election tipped the balance of power in the United States Senate," Sullivan wrote.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanda@alaskadispatch.com

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