Criminal Justice

U.S. Moves to Drop Charges Against Sen. Stevens

Updated: In a stunning development this morning, the U.S. Department of Justice moved to drop charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Justice Department officials are getting out of the case rather than continuing to defend the DOJ against accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Indeed, the New York Times is reporting that the DOJ told a federal court that it has discovered a new instance of prosecutorial misconduct and asked that the convictions be voided. There would be no new trial in the case.

“I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, adding that it was “in the interests of justice” to dismiss the indictment and forgo any new trial, according to the Time.

Jurors convicted Stevens last fall of seven counts of lying on his Senate disclosure form in order to conceal $250,000 in goods and services from an industry oil executive and friends, mostly in the form of home renovations. Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, then lost his bid for re-election.

But charges of prosecutorial misconduct and pleas for a new trial delayed Stevens’ sentencing. At one point, U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan held prosecutors in contempt, prompting the Justice Department to replace the entire trial team.

Holder reportedly considered a number of factors before deciding to pull the plug on the case, including Stevens’ age, 85, and the fact that Stevens isn’t in the Senate.

“Perhaps most important, Justice Department officials say Holder wants to send a message to prosecutors throughout the department that actions he regards as misconduct will not be tolerated,” Nina Totenberg reported this morning.

At the time of his trial, prosecutors asserted that Stevens received most of the undisclosed services from longtime friend Bill Allen. But in Wednesday’s filing, the DOJ says trial prosecutors concealed from defense lawyers the notes from an interview with Allen that raised doubts about the charges, specifically that the work on Stevens’ home was worth only about $80,000.

Last updated at 9:45 a.m. to add details from the New York Times.

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