- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

The Justice Department admitted Wednesday that its career prosecutors acted improperly in the prosecution that drove Senator Ted Stevens from office last fall. Indeed, the trail was was so tainted that we can’t independently assess the verdict against Mr. Stevens, but one thing is clear: Federal prosecutors are guilty of misconduct that cost Republicans a Senate seat.

The original corruption charges filed against the senator on July 29, 2008 alleged that Bill Allen, an Anchorage construction contractor, added an extra storey to the Stevens family chalet and under-charged the powerful politician for the work. At trial, the government claimed that the improvements cost $250,000; Mr. Stevens apparently paid $130,000. The Justice Department now acknowledges that Mr. Allen told the government on April 15, 2008 that the improvements cost Mr. Allen only $80,000. This information was not turned over to Mr. Stevens’ defense team until last week. Now his lawyers now claim that Mr. Allen, the prosecution’s key witness, “was subsequently ‘pushed’ to provide the false ‘bombshell’ testimony favorable to the prosecution.”

“Stevens was not informed prior to or during trial” about information “that could have been used by the defendant to cross-examine” the prosecution’s main witness, according to a Justice Department court filing. Prosecutors also used evidence they now admit they knew was fabricated.

After the trial ended and information of misconduct surfaced, the Justice Department replaced the prosecutors on the trial team as well as top-ranking officials in the Public Integrity Section. The prosecutors are being investigated by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.Judge Emmet Sullivan repeatedly delayed sentencing, faulting prosecutors for what he called prosecutorial misconduct and citing them for contempt. The judge will hear a request to dismiss the case against Mr. Stevens on April 7th.

The timing of the case itself was suspect. With the exception of extraordinary circumstances, the Justice Department generally avoids indictments that are so close to elections that they could affect the outcome. Mr. Stevens’ indictment came just weeks before the Republican primary, and the trial ended just a few days before the general election. Mr. Stevens lost to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by 1.2 percent. Absent the criminal charges, Mr. Stevens surely would have won reelection.

At the very least, the case against the prosecutors is stronger than the case they made against the former senator.

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