- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department said Wednesday it would drop corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens because it withheld evidence from the senator’s defense team.

The reversal is an embarrassing black eye for the Justice Department, which won a conviction against the Alaska Republican in October and is now asking to overturn it.

Stevens, 85, the patriarch of Alaska politics since before statehood, lost his re-election bid in November and has been awaiting sentencing. He was the longest serving Republican senator.

He was convicted of seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a wealthy oil contractor.

The trial was beset by government missteps, culminating recently when a federal judge took the unusual step of holding the Justice Department in contempt.

In early morning court filings, the Justice Department admitted it never turned over notes from an interview with the oil contractor, who estimated the value of the renovation work as far less than he testified at trial.

“I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Justice Department is investigating the conduct of the prosecutors who tried the Stevens case.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department has asked a judge to drop corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens, saying prosecutors withheld evidence from the trial that led to his conviction.

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.

In early morning court filings Wednesday, the Justice Department said prosecutors withheld evidence from Stevens’ defense team that could have been used at trial. Prosecutors asked that the charges be dropped.

They said they will not seek a new trial.

The patriarch of Alaska politics, Stevens lost his re-election bid in November and was awaiting sentencing.

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