- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

Prosecutorial misconduct involving most of the same Justice Department lawyers who botched the case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has tainted other corruption cases in Alaska, the department said Thursday.

The department is now asking an appeals court to release from prison two convicted former Alaska state representatives because prosecutors didn’t turn over information that could have helped the defense during trial.

Victor Kohring and Peter Kott have both been serving prison sentences on bribery and extortion convictions.

“After a careful review of these cases, I have determined that it appears that the department did not provide information that should have been disclosed to the defense,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday.

“Department of Justice prosecutors work hard every day and perform a great service for the American people. But the Department’s mission is to do justice, not just win cases, and when we make mistakes, it is our duty to admit and correct those mistakes,” he said, using language similar to his words upon requesting the dismissal of the Stevens conviction in April.

Four of the six prosecutors involved in the Stevens case — Nicholas A. Marsh and Edward P. Sullivan, Joseph W. Bottini and James A. Goeke — prosecuted Kohring and Kott.

Those prosecutors — along with William M. Welch II and Brenda K. Morris — are already under criminal investigation for their roles in the prosecution of Mr. Stevens.

Mr. Stevens, a Republican who served in the Senate longer than anyone else in the chamber’s history, lost a tight re-election bid last fall, mere days after he was convicted of failing to disclose more than $250,000 he received in gifts and home renovations.

In April, the Justice Department moved to have the case against Mr. Stevens dismissed because of repeated instances of prosecutors withholding evidence from the defense and the possibility that the prosecution may have knowingly put on false testimony from the case’s star witness. Oil magnate Bill Allen is cooperating with authorities in the hopes of receiving a lesser sentence for his own bribery conviction.

Judge Emmet Sullivan called the Stevens case the worst case of misconduct he has seen in 25 years on the bench and appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether the Justice Department lawyers committed criminal contempt of court and obstruction of justice.

The prosecutors, who remain on the job, are also under internal investigation in the Stevens case, as well as the Kohring and Kott cases.

The Justice Department would not describe the evidence that was not turned over to the defense in the Kohring and Kott cases. The department also wouldn’t say how it learned about the problems with those cases.

Along with asking that Kohring and Kott be released, the Justice Department also asked that their cases be sent back to the trial courts for review and potential dismissal.

The men were tried separately in 2007 in federal court in Alaska on charges of taking thousands of dollars in exchange for casting votes to help Allen’s company, the now defunct oil-services company VECO. Kohring was sentenced 3 1/2 years in prison; Kott received a six-year sentence.

Kott’s attorney, Seattle-based Sheryl Gordon McCloud, said the problems that came up in the Stevens case led her to think her case may have had the same problem. She said she had filed a motion after the Stevens case seeking potentially helpful evidence that was not turned over during Kott’s trial.

“I can’t say I’m surprised, because we had a clue,” she said, adding that she does not yet know what evidence that Justice Department lawyers withheld.

Still, “It’s always good when they come forward and admit their mistakes,” she said. “It’s a terrible thing when they hide the ball and take advantage of somebody like Pete Kott.”

Kohring’s attorney, John Henry Browne, said he sent Mr. Holder a letter about a month ago asking him to look into the case.

“I attached two documents to that letter to Eric Holder that I had received from Senator Stevens’ attorney, which were documents that were not given to me during Mr. Kohring’s trial. And I suspect there are a lot more,” Mr. Browne told the Associated Press.

Mr. Browne predicted the charges would be dismissed.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “If we have a hearing, the hearing’s going to be on all kinds of things, not just on the documents.”

Mr. Holder also has ordered a review of the entire Alaska corruption probe, which began in 2004 and led to the convictions of 10 elected officials and prominent businessmen. The entire episode has caused soul-searching within the department. Mr. Holder has already ordered supplemental training for prosecutors regarding turning over evidence, and convened a group of senior justice officials to review the department’s practices and suggest improvements.

“The Criminal Division must ensure that defendants receive all appropriate discovery materials, and today’s action demonstrates that commitment to this responsibility,” said Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general in charge of the division. “We will continue regular discovery training for all criminal division prosecutors to make certain that they perform their duties in adherence to the highest ethical standards.”

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