Attorney General Eric Holder won lots of praise today for asking a court to dismiss the indictment against convicted former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) based on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, including from Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who said the decision shows that Holder is “committed to the rule of law, regardless of politics.”
But campaign finance watchdogs, while praising the attorney general’s acknowledgment of prosecutors’ wrongdoing, want more information about why Holder said he’s not going to re-try Stevens on the charges of failing to disclose gifts worth about $250,000 from an Alaska energy firm.
“The motion filed by the Government in the case today and other allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the case are gravely serious and must be fully addressed,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center, in a statement released today. “But the outright dismissal of an indictment rather than agreeing to a new trial is such an extreme measure that it warrants additional explanation. What is it about the information that now justifies outright dismissal of the indictment with prejudice?”
To be sure, the government’s motion filed with the District Court gives no clue. It says only that the interview notes of a key witness were not provided to Stevens or his lawyer when they should have been. “The Government believes that granting a new trial is in the interest of justice. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a).”
But the Government goes on to say that it’s “further determined that, based on the totality of circumstances and in the interest of justice, it will not seek a new trial.”
Why not? As Hebert notes, “a prior inconsistent statement, even of a key witness, is likely not the only reason that our nation’s chief law enforcement officer would authorize prosecutors to seek a dismissal of an indictment after conviction, especially in a high profile case like this.”
Sure, Stevens is 85 years old, and some, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), [have said](failing to disclose gifts worth about $250,000 from an Alaska energy firm) that he just didn’t understand today’s rules, and putting him in prison won’t do any good. But as Hebert points out, “he was prepared (if he won re-election) to serve another 6-year term,” despite strong evidence that he lied and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in valuable gifts that he never reported.
The attorney general ought to provide more information, then, about why he’s dropping the case, said Hebert, who also wants “assurances that the public integrity section of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division is now being supervised to a degree that pending investigations (e.g., arising out of the Abramoff scandal, Rep. Jefferson, Rep. Doolittle, etc.) are not at risk of being thrown out for similar prosecutorial misconduct.”
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