Legal Ethics

Judge Considers Dismissing Stevens Indictment over Withheld FBI Records

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Updated: A federal judge heard arguments Thursday on whether to dismiss the indictment or declare a mistrial in the prosecution of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan suspended Stevens’ trial because of revelations the government did not disclose FBI records that could have helped Stevens’ defense, report the Washington Post and The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. The material was turned over Wednesday night.

After the hearing, Sullivan refused to declare a mistrial, despite telling government lawyers “the court has no confidence in the government’s ability” to meet its obligations under Brady v. Maryland.

The records indicate that a key prosecution witness, Bill Allen, said Stevens would have paid for home renovations if he had ever billed him. Stevens is accused of failing to state on financial disclosure forms that Allen, a former energy company executive, paid for the construction work.

Stevens’ lawyers contend the senator paid every bill received for the work, some $160,000 in all. The bills were submitted by a subcontractor.

Prosecutor Brenda Morris said the failure to turn over the information was due to human error, but Sullivan expressed disbelief, according to the BLT account. “It strikes me that this was probably intentional. I find it unbelievable that this was just an error,” he said.

Sullivan fumed that Stevens “would not be getting a fair trial if it were up to the government,” according to the Post story.

On Monday, Sullivan rebuked prosecutors for sending a key witness back to Alaska without notifying the court. The witness, who had supervised the renovation project, had told defense lawyers that government estimates of the amount of time he spent on the project were overblown.

More: “No Mistrial for Senator Stevens.”

Updated at Oct. 3 to include information about Sullivan’s refusal to declare a mistrial.

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