- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

It may have tipped the balance of a close election, and the fallout from that is far from over.

Mr. Stevens, the 85-year-old patriarch of Alaska politics, is headed to court Tuesday, when a judge is expected to grant Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s request to dismiss the case and toss out Mr. Stevens’ conviction.

Within the department, the Stevens case could have far-ranging implications. The prosecution team, including the top two officials in the public-integrity section, faces an internal investigation.

The FBI has 2,500 pending corruption investigations across the country, and whether the targets are lawmakers or suspected crooked government inspectors, prosecutors may be more cautious in bringing charges after the Stevens debacle.

A jury convicted Mr. Stevens of lying about improper gifts and home renovations provided by an Alaska businessman. Mr. Stevens beat the charges, but lost his job. In that, he’s not alone.

In Puerto Rico last year, prosecutors filed a new indictment against Democratic Gov. Anibal S. Acevedo Vila three months before his re-election. He lost the race, but a jury found him not guilty of all charges.

The prosecution “certainly smacked of political motivation,” argued Mr. Acevedo Vila’s lawyer, Thomas Green.

Such accusations are not new from defense lawyers in corruption cases. But they have far more bite when the politicians charged ultimately win in court after having lost their careers.

In Wisconsin in 2006, prosecutors indicted a little-known state worker suspected of helping contributors to Democratic Gov. James E. Doyle obtain a contract. The worker, Georgia Thompson, was sentenced to prison two months before the election.

After the election - which Mr. Doyle won - an appeals court not only overturned her conviction, but ordered her immediately freed from prison. One appeals court judge described the evidence against Miss Thompson as “beyond thin.”

Joseph E. diGenova, a former federal prosecutor, said federal prosecutors suffer from “a lack of supervision.”

“I’m a great fan of prosecutors, but the department and the U.S. attorneys offices, in my opinion, have been out of control,” Mr. diGenova said.

In Mr. Stevens’ case, Mr. Holder decided to pull the plug after prosecutors withheld notes of an interview with a crucial witness. The notes would have contradicted damaging testimony the witness gave against Mr. Stevens.

To Mr. diGenova, it was one of the worst examples of prosecutors caring more about winning a case than finding justice, and further proof of what he called the incredible arrogance of many lawyers in the department.

“This was, in essence, a framing of a senator. That doesn’t mean he’s pure as the driven snow, but they were going to convict him no matter what,” Mr. diGenova said. “They changed the balance of power in the United States Senate. That ought to be a crime.”

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