By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 6, 2009
A federal judge yesterday ordered the Justice Department to give him documents concerning allegations of misconduct by the team that prosecuted former senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on corruption charges.
The order by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan comes days after the Justice Department said it would ask Sullivan to throw out Stevens's conviction and indictment. The judge is scheduled to hear Tuesday from the department about the motion.
During Stevens's trial, Sullivan repeatedly chastised prosecutors for their handling of witnesses and evidence. A jury convicted the senator in October of lying on financial disclosure forms to hide gifts and free home renovations. But since then, an FBI agent has filed a whistleblower complaint alleging misconduct by the prosecution team, and Sullivan has held three top Justice lawyers in contempt.
In February, Justice officials reviewing the prosecution uncovered notes of a pretrial interview of their star witness. The notes contradicted the witness's testimony that Stevens didn't want to be billed for remodeling work, officials said. The information should have been given to the defense but was not.
Sullivan demanded yesterday all evidence handed over to Stevens's attorneys since the trial and all exculpatory material connected to allegations raised by the FBI agent. He also asked for copies of the prosecutors' witness notes.
The judge is expected to grant the government's motion to dismiss the case, but legal experts said the order signals that Sullivan may not let the misconduct allegations drop. He can levy various sanctions, including a fine and jail time, against prosecutors if he concludes they intentionally violated evidentiary rules.