Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to drop all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens, after a series of allegations of prosecutorial misconduct put the conviction in jeopardy. The decision means that Stevens will not face prosecution again and will collect his Senate retirement benefits. Holder cited his age as part of his determination, but Holder obviously didn’t want to defend the conduct of DoJ prosecutors in the case:
The U.S. Justice Department has decided to drop all charges against former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens amid accusations of prosecutorial misconduct, NPR reported on Wednesday, citing Justice officials.
Stevens, a Republican who served longer than any other U.S. senator before losing a November re-election race, was convicted in October of seven counts of lying on a Senate disclosure form to conceal $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from an oil industry executive and other friends. Allegations of prosecutorial misconduct have delayed his sentencing.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reviewed the case himself and decided not to continue to defend the conviction in the face of questions about prosecutors” actions, NPR reported on its website.
Holder also was influenced by the age of Stevens, 85, and the fact that he is no longer in the Senate, NPR reported.
The government will move to dismiss the conviction today, presumably with prejudice, meaning that Stevens will be able to claim double jeopardy if the charges got refiled later.
I wrote earlier about the allegations of misconduct. The most recent involved allegations of a sexual affair between an FBI agent and a witness that didn’t get disclosed to the defense. The most serious charged prosecutors with deliberately withholding exculpatory evidence, including lying to the judge. Those allegations came from an FBI whistleblower, not the defense, which made the charges much more credible — and very, very damaging to the conviction prosecutors won.
Holder did nothing more than bow to the inevitable. After that came to light, no appeals court would have upheld his conviction. If that misconduct gets established, prosecutors involved will probably get disbarred.
Of course, none of this changes the fact that Stevens had oil-company lobbyists remodeling his house and hid that fact from the Senate. The fact that prosecutors engaged in serious misconduct does not make Stevens clean. It just makes him free.