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Federal Judge: DOJ trumped Up Case Against Stevens and Falsified Records

You don’t think the DOJ ever trumped up cases against the porn industry? Nah.

Reporting from Washington, — A federal judge dismissed the criminal charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens today while strongly criticizing the Justice Department lawyers who prosecuted the Alaskan stalwart for their actions in the case.

“In nearly 25 years on the bench, I’ve never seen anything approaching the misdeeds and the misconduct I have seen in this case,” U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan [pictured] told a packed courtroom.

A jury found Stevens guilty on seven corruption counts in October, one week before Election Day. The longest-serving Republican in the Senate lost his bid for re-election.

While setting aside the verdict today, Sullivan also pledged that he would launch his own criminal probe of the Justice Department’s actions in the case, which included withholding key pieces of evidence and falsifying records.

In February, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. replaced the team that tried Stevens and ordered the new group of lawyers to conduct a thorough review of the government’s actions. After that was completed, Holder announced this month that the case should be dismissed because exculpatory evidence suggesting Stevens’ innocence was never turned over to defense lawyers.

The Justice Department also has initiated its own internal probe of the conduct of the lawyers on the trial team.

Sullivan praised Holder’s actions — and the Justice Department team that uncovered the prosecution’s misdeeds. But Sullivan said he wanted a more public accounting of the department’s actions.

The judge has named a Washington lawyer, Henry F. Schuelke III, to conduct a criminal contempt investigation, explaining that the department could not be trusted to investigate itself.

“The court has an obligation to determine what happened here and respond accordingly,” Sullivan said.

Stevens, 85, was accused of accepting gifts and services from oil and construction interests in his home state and then lying about it on his Senate disclosure forms. He spoke briefly during today’s hearing, thanking Alaskans for their support, and said that Sullivan’s actions had restored his faith in the rule of law.

His lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, who is not related to the judge, had stronger words. “It’s clear from the evidence that the government engaged in intentional misconduct,” he said.

The former senator’s attorney said federal prosecutors knowingly elicited false testimony on the witness stand, kept key documents hidden from the defense team and falsified business records. He said the department wilted under pressure to secure a conviction because Stevens was up for re-election to his Senate seat.

Stevens, who served Alaska in the Senate for 40 years, lost the election in November to Democrat Mark Begich.

“Nothing really can be done to rectify the wrong,” Brendan Sullivan said. “Nothing can be done to give the citizens of Alaska a senator they surely would have elected.”

After the hearing ended, Stevens was escorted to a waiting van by his wife and daughters. “I’m going to enjoy this wonderful day,” he said.


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