- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department will seek to drop all charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens, whose conviction on corruption charges sparked complaints of prosecutorial misconduct, officials said Wednesday.

The 85-year-old Alaska Republican was convicted late last year on seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a businessman.

Stevens has appealed his conviction. Problems with the prosecution angered the judge and made it more difficult for the Justice Department to defend the conviction.

Two people familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to talk about it before court documents are filed, said Justice officials have decided to ask the judge to dismiss the indictment. If the judge agrees, Stevens’ conviction would be vacated.

The decision was first reported Wednesday by National Public Radio, which said Attorney General Eric Holder decided the conviction could not be defended because of problems with the government’s prosecution.

In December, Stevens asked a federal judge to grant him a new trial or throw out the case, saying his trial had many “deficiencies.”

Reached at his office this morning by the Anchorage Daily News, Stevens’ lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, told the newspaper he has a meeting at the Justice Department at 10 a.m. but said he had not been informed of the reported decision by Justice.

Messages for Stevens’ lawyers from The Associated Press were not returned early Wednesday morning.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan held Justice Department lawyers in contempt last month for failing to turn over documents as ordered. He called their behavior “outrageous.”

Sullivan had ordered Justice to provide the agency’s internal communications regarding a whistle-blower complaint brought by an FBI agent involved in the investigation of Stevens. The agent objected to Justice Department tactics during the trial, including failure to turn over evidence and an “inappropriate relationship” between the lead agent on the case and the prosecution’s star witness.

The Justice Department has since assigned a new team of prosecutors to the case.

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