The special prosecutor who investigated the botched case against Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska is not recommending criminal charges against any of the Justice Department attorneys who tried him despite finding widespread misconduct beyond what has yet been publicly revealed.
The findings in a 2 1/2-year investigation by Washington lawyer Henry F. Schuelke III were revealed Monday in an order from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.
Judge Sullivan wrote the investigation found the Stevens prosecution was “permeated” by the prosecutors’ concealment of evidence they collected that could have helped the senator’s defense.
The full 500-page report remains under seal until the Justice Department has a chance to respond, but Judge Sullivan says he will release it publicly.
A jury convicted Stevens of seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure documents to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and gifts from wealthy friends, including a massage chair, a stained-glass window and an expensive sculpture. A few days later, Stevens lost re-election to the seat he’d held for 40 years.
Judge Sullivan dismissed the conviction after the Justice Department admitted misconduct in the case, including withholding of notes from an interview with the government’s star witness. The witness was Bill Allen, the millionaire founder of an Alaska oil-services company called VECO Corp., who testified that he oversaw extensive renovations at Stevens’ home and sent his employees to work on it.
Judge Sullivan ordered the criminal probe, saying at the time that he’d never seen such misconduct in 25 years on the bench. He tapped Mr. Schuelke, a former prosecutor and veteran white-collar defense attorney who has overseen probes of former New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and Jack Abramoff’s lobbying firm.
Stevens died in a plane crash last year while the investigation continued.
Judge Sullivan wrote that Mr. Schuelke’s team uncovered even further evidence of concealment and serious prosecutorial misconduct that almost certainly would never have been revealed publicly or to him without the exhaustive investigation that reviewed more than 150,000 pages of documents, interviewed numerous witnesses and conducted twelve depositions.
The investigators also found at least some of the concealment was intentional.
But Mr. Schuelke did not recommend criminal contempt charges because the judge never issued a direct order spelling out the rules of evidence.
“Because the court accepted the prosecutors’ repeated assertions that they were complying with their obligations and proceeding in good faith, the court did not issue a clear and unequivocal order directing the attorneys to follow the law,” Judge Sullivan wrote.
Subjects of the criminal investigation were prosecutors Brenda Morris, Edward Sullivan, Joseph Bottini, James Goeke and William Welch, who did not participate in the trial but at the time supervised the Justice Department’s Public Integrity section and had overseen every major public corruption case in recent years.
Another attorney who was targeted in the investigation, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide last year.
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