A lawyer appointed by a federal judge to investigate allegations of misconduct by Justice Department prosecutors handling the botched corruption case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) found “systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence” — some of which was “willful and intentional” — but is not recommending any criminal contempt charges.
The 500-plus page report by Henry F. Schuelke, III — based on a review of 150,000 pages of documents, interviews with numerous witnesses and twelve depositions — finds that the Stevens case was “permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated his defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness,” according to an excerpt released by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Monday.
Sullivan wrote in a 12-page order, first reported by Mike Scarcella of the National Law Journal, that Schuelke’s review “found evidence of concealment and serious misconduct that was previously unknown and almost certainly would never have been revealed - at least to the Court and to the public - but for their exhaustive investigation.”
The evidence allegedly withheld by the prosecution could have helped Stevens defend himself. He had argued that he didn’t knowingly file false financial disclosure forms with the Senate. Ultimately, Schuelke found lawyers in the case shouldn’t face criminal charges, Sullivan wrote.
“Despite his findings of significant, widespread, and at times intentional misconduct, Mr. Schuelke is not recommending any prosecution for criminal contempt,” he wrote.
Sullivan’s order states that he intends to release the report in January once the Justice Department and lawyers for the prosecutors in the Stevens case have a chance to review it.
“The public’s interest in the results of this investigation, which reveal failures of supervision and/or misconduct by attorneys in the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section in the prosecution of a sitting United States Senator, is as compelling today as it was on April 7, 2009,” Sullivan writes.
Senators pressed Attorney General Eric Holder at a hearing earlier this month about the outcome of a separate review of the Stevens case conducted by DOJ’s internal Office of Professional Responsibility. Holder said that he hoped to “share as much of that as we possibly can given the very public nature of that matter and the very public decision I made to dismiss the case.”