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Legal Ethics

Judge to Hold Senior DOJ Lawyers in Contempt in Sen. Stevens Case

Posted Feb 13, 2009 3:40 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In the latest chapter of an ongoing saga of embarrassment for the U.S. Department of Justice, a federal judge angrily said he will hold four of its prosecutors in contempt for failing to comply with a post-trial court order to turn over documents in the case of former Sen. Ted Stevens. The Alaska Republican was convicted in October in a corruption case.

The lawyers involved are William Welch II, the chief of the DOJ's Public Integrity Section; Brenda Morris, the section's principal deputy chief, who is lead prosecutor in the Stevens case; Kevin Driscoll; and Patricia Stemler, the chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section, reports the Blog of Legal Times.

After repeatedly asking DOJ attorneys today why they hadn't turned over the documents, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan exploded angrily when he was finally told there was no reason for the delay, reports the Associated Press.

"That was a court order!" he shouted at the prosecutors. "That wasn't a request. I didn't ask for them out of the kindness of your hearts. ... Isn't the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?"

Sullivan says he will not actually issue sanctions, however, until the conclusion of the case, the BLT notes. The nature of the documents that weren't turned over isn't known.

"The contempt holding is the latest chapter in the Public Integrity Section’s misadventure in the case," the blog post recounts. "Sullivan has lambasted prosecutors for a number [of] violations related to case evidence, witnesses, and a whistle-blower complaint filed by an FBI agent accusing prosecutors and another agent of misconduct."

Sullivan, who sits in Washington, D.C., is considering post-trial motions to throw out Stevens' conviction.

Although the contempt citation won't immediately benefit Stevens, who awaits sentencing, it could bolster his appeal, the AP notes.

Earlier ABAJournal.com coverage:

Friday Hearing Set on Claim of Prosecutor Wrongdoing in Senator’s Trial

FBI Agent Claims Prosecutors Altered Document to ‘Fit’ Previous Discovery Info

Sen. Stevens Blasts Prosecutors after Conviction on All Counts

Updated at 4:36 p.m. to include new details from more recent Associated Press coverage.

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