Alright, well here’s a story that I figured I would eventually be writing about (although I figured it’d be an appeal case): former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) has been vindicated in the corruption case against him. Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder dropped the case against him after Justice Department lawyers found additional cases of prosecutorial misconduct during the case.
Stevens was charged with lying on Senate disclosure forms by concealing approximately $250,000 worth of goods and services he received (the biggest chunk of that was to renovate a house in Alaska). Prosecutors claimed that most of the good and services came from Bill Allen, a friend of Stevens’s.
But on Wednesday, Justice Department lawyers said they discovered that trial prosecutors had concealed from Stevens’s defense lawyers notes from a 2008 interview with Allen. That interview raised significant doubts in the prosecution’s mind about the charges. In that interview, Allen told prosecutors that the work he did on Stevens’s house was valued at only $80,000.
During the trial, Stevens’s lawyers argued that Stevens wasn’t aware of hte services he had received from Allen and that he hadn’t intentionally concealed anything on his disclosure forms.
Holder released a statement saying, “After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial. In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.”
Stevens’s lawyers, Brendan Sullivan and Robert Cary, said that Holder is “a pillar of integrity,” but that this case should be a warning to everyone that “any citizen can be convicted if prosecutors are hellbent on ignoring the Constitution.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters that had the case have been dismissed before the election, “Ted Stevens would still be in the Senate. It literally cost us a seat.”
Stevens said in a statement, “I always knew that there would be a day when the cloud that surrounded me would be removed. That day has finally come. It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair.”
I have to give him credit here – he did predict that he’d be vindicated. I’m trying to find the video of the interview where he said this, but I can’t find it. I’ll post it later if I find it.
Alaska Senator Mark Begich (D), who defeated Stevens last November, released a statement saying, “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.”
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a longtime friend of Stevens, told reporters, “Here’s a guy who gave better than 60 years’ service to our country and was screwed. Screwed by our own Justice Department.” He later praised Holder for “standing up and fixing this foul situation.”
As a result of these new discoveries, Judge Sullivan has placed several of the prosecutors in contempt of court, saying, “How does the court have confidence that the Public Integrity Section has public integrity?”
So what are my thoughts? On the one hand, I think that the prosecutors really messed up here, and Stevens should be vindicated. On the other hand, I honestly don’t think that Stevens is all that innocent. This isn’t the first time that rumors of corruption have swirled around him, but that doesn’t justify an unjust verdict. I guess I’m sorry that he lost his election because of this case, since it seems apparent that he really was innocent, but Senator Stevens certainly wasn’t on my top 5 Senators list.
I wish the best of luck to Mr. Stevens. While I disagree with him on some of his positions, I absolutely love him as a person.