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Commentary: Justice Failed to Deliver Justice in the Sen. Stevens Trial

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The case against Sen. Ted Stevens was supposed to be an easy one. Clean. No complications.

No need to prove bribery, just that the curmudgeonly Senator, who was known for wheeling and dealing, had lied on financial disclosure forms by failing to report $250,000 in free gifts and renovations to his Alaska home.

Instead, it turned into a nightmare and an embarrassing one at that for the Justice Department.

First off the trial was a mess.  Time after time, the defense complained about the prosecutions’ failure to turn over  evidence it was required to, or properly handle witnesses.  

 U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan admonished the prosecution repeatedly  and at one point said he had no confidence in their ability to give Stevens a fair trial.  Not good.

 The judge only seemed to get angrier.  Meanwhile, over at Main Justice, some folks saw the mess unfolding and worried that the prosecution team would blow this high profile case involving a powerful Senator. Bringing down a senator is not taken lightly over there.

Miraculously, in October, there was a conviction, which was more a  testmonial to the simplicity of the case rather than the execution by the prosecution. 

 In post-trial proceedings, things got worse.  Judge Sullivan held three prosecutors in contempt for failing to follow a court order.  And an FBI agent filed an affidavit in court accusing another FBI agent of misconduct during the investigation.

    Could there have been more missteps?

    It became clearer and clearer that the government, if not the judge, would have no choice but to call for a new trial or outright dismiss the case.

   On Wednesday, the Justice Department moved to do the right thing and filed a motion to erase the conviction and drop the case all together. The embarrassment and injustice proved to be too much. A hearing on the matter is set for Tuesday.

“Given the facts of this particular case, the Government believes that granting a new trial is in the interest of justice,” said the Justice Department motion.  “The Government has further determined that, based on the totality of circumstances and in the interest of justice, it will not seek a new trial…the Government moves to set aside the verdict and dismiss the indictment prejudice.”

  The downside of all this was that the Justice Department delivered anything but Justice during and after trial.  It was downright embarrassing.  The upside is that the Justice Department delivered justice in the end by dropping the case.

Some people on Capitol Hill are now complaining that the trial hurt Stevens chances of re-election.  Luckily, to minimize the political squawking, Stevens was tried under a Republican administration.

  Now comes the real justice.

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsiblity is looking into the whole matter.

  “Once the inquiry into this matter is completed by the Office of Professional Responsibilty, the Government will share the findings with the Court,” the Justice Department wrote in Wednesday’s motion.

   Ted Steven may not be an angel. But he deserved to be tried fairly. Justice failed him. Now let’s see if justice is served when it comes to those who took away Stevens’ right to a fair trial.


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Pingback from News that Fits « Fraud with Peril: Levin & Gallagher Lawyers
Time April 2, 2009 at 9:15 am

[…] that Fits Posted on April 2, 2009 by Steve Levin Tickle the Wire:  Allan Lengel writes that DoJ failed to deliver justice in the case against Ted […]

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