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Boston Fed Prosecutor Admits Withholding Evidence: Judge Says He Sees Pattern in the U.S. Atty’s Office

Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf

Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf

Maybe we’re just noticing this problem more since the Justice Department moved to void the conviction of ex-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. But it seems to be popping up a lot all around the country as of late. In this case, the federal judge said he saw a pattern of this in the Boston U.S. Attorney’s office. If true, the problem could open the doors to more successful appeals by criminals.

By Jonathan Saltzman
Boston Globe
BOSTON — A federal prosecutor acknowledged yesterday that she withheld evidence that could have helped clear a defendant in a gun case but said it was an inadvertent mistake and implored the chief judge of the US District Court in Massachusetts not to impose sanctions that could derail her career.

“It is my mistake. . . . It rests on my shoulders,” a composed Suzanne Sullivan, assistant US attorney, told Judge Mark L. Wolf in a dramatic hearing in Boston that lasted more than two hours. “I also ask the court to give me the opportunity to rebuild my reputation.”

But Wolf said he was considering several sanctions because he was so appalled by Sullivan’s lapse and by what he characterized as a pattern of prosecutors in the US attorney’s office withholding evidence.

The potential sanctions ranged from fining her – which prosecutors said no federal judge in the country has done for a lapse of Sullivan’s type – to an order that she and perhaps all 90 criminal prosecutors in the office undergo additional training about their constitutional duty to share such evidence with defendants.

“It’s unpardonable, and if I don’t find it deliberate, I find it’s at least ignorance and reckless disregard,” he said at the hearing at which he also criticized as ineffectual the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

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