The charges against Ted Stevens may be about to be dropped — but the fallout isn’t over.
The judge in the case yesterday ordered the Justice Department to hand over documents relating to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the case, reports the Washington Post.
It was because of this misconduct that Attorney General Eric Holder last week decided to ask the judge, Emmet Sullivan, drop the charges against Stevens.
Though Sullivan is expected to grant the government’s motion tomorrow, he still wants the documents because he must decide whether to impose sanctions on the prosecutors — a fine, or even jail time — if he concludes they intentionally violated evidentiary rules, explains the Post.
The trial and its aftermath saw a series of complaints about prosecutorial missteps, many of which centered on the failure of government lawyers to promptly turn over key evidence to the defense. In February, Sullivan held prosecutors in contempt after they did not immediately hand over to him documents relating to an FBI whistleblower’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Shortly afterward, the Justice Department replaced the team of four prosecutors, including William Welch, the head of the department’s Public Integrity section. And Holder’s decision to ask that the charges be dropped followed the discovery that prosecutors had not turned over evidence suggesting that a crucial government witness had contradicted himself about whether Stevens expected to be billed for the renovations to his home that were at the heart of the case.
Sanctions for department prosecutors would be a major black eye for Justice, just when it’s looking to move beyond the problems of the Bush years.