senator ted stevens, senator ted stevens Alaska
Al Grillo/AP
Sen. Ted Stevens

Whistleblower Accuses Ted Stevens’ Prosecutors of Misconduct

December 22, 2008 10:32 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A new complaint accuses prosecutors of hiding witnesses and other misconduct while prosecuting Stevens, though it's not clear what affect the allegations could have.

Complaint Follows Verdict

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors who successfully obtained a conviction for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, notified the trial’s judge, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, of a whistleblower complaint.

The complaint accuses prosecutors of misconduct, such as trying to “relocate a witness,” which “echo long-running complaints raised by Stevens’s defense team,” The Washington Post reported Saturday.

In October, the senator, who has served for 40 years, was convicted of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms.

Stevens is seeking a new trial, but it’s not yet clear how this latest twist will affect that goal.

“Sullivan said it was premature to say whether the allegations, if true, could have affected the outcome of the trial. But Sullivan said the allegations were clearly relevant to the Stevens case,” the Anchorage Daily News reports. The new trial motion is supposed to be heard in February, acording to the Daily News.

Prosecutors wanted the whistleblower complaint kept secret, while the defense wanted it made public. In a 29-page ruling, Sullivan said a redacted version of the complaint would be released Monday afternoon, the Post said.

Sullivan describes the whistleblower as someone who was “significantly involved in the investigation and prosecution of the defendant,” the Post said.

The trial left “an indelible black mark on a lengthy political career,” according to KTUU-TV.

Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each of the seven charges. Sentencing guidelines, however, will likely prevent him from serving a long prison term. The sentencing is set to take place Jan. 26.

After his conviction, Stevens ran for re-election but lost.

Background: Stevens’ Trial Judge Upset over Witness Handling, Testimony

After prosecutors sent home a key witness in the trial in September, the Washington Post said Judge Emmet Sullivan looked “livid.” He wasn’t told that Robert Williams, a former employee of Veco Corp., was going home. “Why wasn’t I consulted? I’m peeved now. It’s a federal subpoena to appear in my court,” Sullivan stated.

Then on Oct. 2, Judge Sullivan threatened to throw out the case upon learning that prosecutors had revealed last-minute evidence which could clear Stevens of guilt. The issue involved an FBI interview with the prosecution's chief witness, oilman Bill Allen. The government gave Stevens’ lawyers a redacted portion of the interview, but admitted that they had concealed parts of the interview that they shouldn’t have.

Defense lawyer Brendan V. Sullivan said the newly revealed material contains contradictions in testimony from Allen. By law, material that could help a defendant in a trial must be turned over.

“I don’t know how to fully explain it. It was just a mistake,” prosecutor Brenda Morris said. “I am standing here as humbly as I know how. (But) I again will submit to you there is no harm.”

“When the United States of America says, ‘This is defendant’s lucky day because we complied with the judge’s order,’ that is a sad commentary,” Sullivan said in a Los Angeles Times article.

Context: The charges against Stevens; evidence delays

Stevens was accused of failing to report more than $250,000 of “gifts and benefits” from various friends and “favor-seekers,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.

One of those “favor-seekers” is the former chairman of the oil-field services company Veco Corp., Bill Allen. He pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators and was a witness against Stevens.

Before the trial started in September, Stevens' attorneys were concerned about a delay in examining evidence against him. They wanted anything favorable for Stevens, or damaging to witnesses like Allen, turned over before the trial. They cited a past sexual abuse case against Allen, and said it could lessen his credibility. Allen also experienced a brain injury during a motorcycle accident years ago, and Stevens’ attorneys said that, “To date, the government has not disclosed any documents or other information relating to this injury that might allow the defense to determine what impact, if any, the injury may have had on Allen’s ability to recall and perceive the events at issue in this case.”

Stevens pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in Washington, D.C., and also made it clear that he did not want his indictment to get in the way of his re-election campaign. Corruption cases tend to take years, but prosecutors and the judge said they had no problem with moving the case along quickly.

The Stevens trial was seemingly plagued by difficulties. Attorneys tried more than once to have a mistrial declared in Sen. Ted Stevens's corruption case. They accused prosecutors of manipulating Bill Allen, a key witness in the trial, to weaken the defense's case. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the prosecution said, "Contrary to all of the theatrics and hyperbole from the defense, no one has attempted to hide evidence or hold back any discoverable item."

Reports also surfaced that Bill Allen's attorney may have been coaching him on the witness stand using hand signals. "It's clear he was signaling an answer to the witness," Judge Emmett Sullivan said in an ABC News article. Sullivan asked Allen's attorney, "Why shouldn't I hold you in contempt of court right now?" Joseph Bottini, an assistant U.S. attorney from Alaska, said he had known Allen's attorney, Robert Bundy, for a long time "and would be surprised the communication was intentional," according to ABC News.

Bundy has denied making signals to Allen during his testimony.

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