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Legal Ethics

Judge Rebukes Prosecutors in Stevens Gift-Giving Case

Posted Sep 29, 2008 12:15 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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The federal judge overseeing the gift-giving case against Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, angrily rebuked the Justice Department for mishandling a witness.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan didn't go so far as to declare a mistrial, but he was upset that prosecutors sent a key witness back to Alaska, giving the impression that the government was trying to hide evidence that could benefit Stevens, the Associated Press reports.

Stevens is charged in federal court with failing to disclose more than $250,000 in gifts and extensive home renovations. His trial began last week.

The witness dispute involved a Robert Williams, who supervised the renovation project. Williams reportedly called the defense to say that prosecutors were overblowing how much time on the project.

Sullivan was incredulous that prosecutors sent Williams, who is suffering from health problems, back to Alaska without notifying the court.

The AP reports, that Sullivan, with his voice rising said, "Why wasn't I consulted? I'm peeved now. It's a federal subpoena to appear in my court. I think the government is treading in some shallow water here. What should the sanction be for that?"

Sullivan may now give the defense time to cross-examine previous witnesses, some of whom have already returned to Alaska.

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