Legal Ethics

Report Blasts Feds for 'Systematic Concealment' of Exculpatory Evidence in Alaskan Senator's Case


In a more than 500-page report filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., a court-appointed lawyer tasked with investigating the failed federal prosecution of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska not only sharply criticized the government’s handling of the case, citing a lack of supervision and inadequate effort to comply with rules regarding the provision of helpful evidentiary material to the defense, but gave specific examples of wrongdoing.

“The investigation and prosecution of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens were permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence, which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness,” said special counsel Henry Schuelke III in the report.

The Am Law Daily provides a link to the document (PDF).

However, Schuelke did not call for contempt charges against the prosecutors, because they did not violate any specific court orders by failing to produce material to the defense as required, according to the Anchorage Daily News and Bloomberg.

“Were there a clear, specific and unequivocal order of the court which commanded the disclosure of this information, we are satisfied that a criminal contempt prosecution would lie,” wrote Schuelke.

Stevens has since died in a plane crash. But his chief defense lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, called the examples of misconduct cited by Schuelke frightening and pointed out if his client, as a sitting U.S. senator, could be targeted in a case involving “the wors[t] misconduct we’ve seen in a generation by prosecutors at the Department of Justice and the FBI,” anyone could.

Among other misconduct, the government failed to disclose that a key witness had not only allegedly been involved with what the report termed a ‘juvenile prostitute” but arguably had sought a false affidavit from her. Had the defense team known this, it could have severely damaged his credibility on the stand, Sullivan said.

An investigation is ongoing by the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility concerning the conduct of the prosecutors involved in the case.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Inexperience and Staffing Problems Plagued Stevens Prosecutors”

ABAJournal.com: “Despite Feds’ ‘Pervasive’ Concealment of Evidence, No Contempt Charges in Sen. Stevens Case”

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