Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP
The attorneys for former Alaska Sen.
Ted Stevens: Brendan Sullivan, Jr.,
right, and Robert M. Cary.

Case Against Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens Dropped

April 02, 2009 01:29 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
After several wrong turns in a corruption case against the Alaska politician, federal prosecutors have moved to dismiss the indictment against him.

The Reason

Dismissing the case against Stevens means “effectively voiding his Oct. 27 conviction on seven counts of filing false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.

But given the circumstances of the case, including a conclusion that certain information should have been given to Stevens’ defense for use at his trial, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he has “determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.”
Stevens, who was running for reelection in the midst of his trial, said, “It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair. It was my great honor to serve the state of Alaska in the United States Senate for 40 years,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s leading Republican, told The Washington Times that Stevens could have been reelected in November if the case had been thrown out sooner. “No question that if this decision had been made last year he’d still be in the Senate,” McConnell stated.

A hearing on the government’s motion is set for April 7.

Background: The case against Stevens

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. In 2008, a jury found him guilty on seven counts of corruption.

The case against him, however, has been seemingly plagued with difficulties. In December 2008 federal prosecutors against Stevens notified the trial’s judge, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, of a whistleblower complaint accusing them of misconduct.

Several issues surfaced during the trial, including an instance when prosecutors sent home a key witness in September. In October, Judge Sullivan threatened to throw out the case upon learning that prosecutors had revealed last-minute evidence which could have cleared Stevens of guilt.

Stevens’ guilty verdict came very close to the 2008 election, giving Alaska’s 40-year senator a full plate during election season. He lost a close Senate race against Democratic challenger Mark Begich.

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Reactions: Thoughts on the dismissal

In a written statement, Stevens said, “I am grateful that the new team of responsible prosecutors at the Department of Justice has acknowledged that I did not receive a fair trial, and has dismissed all the charges against me,” according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the News-Miner, “First I was relieved, and then I was very angry to know we have a system that can allow for this level of misconduct within the Justice Department that can result in a man’s career being ruined like this.” She continued, “And then, basically, they said, ‘nevermind’ and all of a sudden pretend it didn’t happen.”

Despite taking some criticism for voting for Holder to become attorney general, Murkowski said his decision to dismiss the case reassured her that he is “a very principled man.”

As for how the case affected Stevens, blogger Jim Wooten wrote, “The Senate’s a better place without Stevens. But there’s no justice that can repair the damage done. The felony convictions cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate and, but for Holder’s decision, could have cost him his freedom as well.  This is as scary as misuse of power gets.”

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