No charges recommended for Stevens prosecutors

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2011 11:41 AM
No charges recommended for Stevens prosecutors

The special prosecutor who investigated the botched case against late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens 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 two-and-a-half-year investigation by Washington lawyer Henry F. Schuelke III were revealed Monday in an order from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan. 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 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, making him the longest-serving Republican in the Senate at the time.

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 a major Alaska company that supported oil producers called VECO Corp., who testified that he oversaw extensive renovations at Stevens' home and sent his employees to work on it.

Sullivan ordered the criminal investigation, saying at the time that he'd never seen such misconduct in 25 years on the bench. He appointed Schuelke, a former prosecutor and veteran white collar defense attorney who oversaw a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into influence-peddling allegations against former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato in 1989 and an internal investigation for Jack Abramoff's lobbying firm after his misconduct came to light.

Stevens died in a plane crash last year while the investigation continued.

Sullivan wrote that 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 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," 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.

The Justice Department also conducted a separate, internal investigation and found in a draft report that Alaska-based prosecutors Bottini and Goeke and FBI agent Mary Beth Kepner engaged in misconduct in the trial, according to a lawyer familiar with the investigation. Lawyers familiar with that investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility told The Associated Press that it remains open.

Kepner came under scrutiny after an FBI whistle-blower said Kepner had an inappropriate relationship with the star witness in the case. Beth Kepner's lawyer, Michael Schwartz, said last month his client has cooperated with the OPR investigation, continues to do so and remains an agent of the FBI assigned to the Alaska division.

Last month, Chuck Rosenberg, a lawyer for Morris, said that OPR found no misconduct by his client.

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Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this report.