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DoJ Seeks to Toss Stevens Conviction:

In response to serious allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, the Department of Justice is seeking to have Senator Stevens' felony convictions thrown out. The Washington Post editorializes:

this extraordinary reversal cannot erase or forgive the ugly behavior that gave rise to the indictment in the first place. Trial records and testimony painted a picture of a man so consumed with his own sense of entitlement that he did not think twice about accepting such expensive freebies as a Viking gas grill, a vibrating Shiatsu massage lounger and a five-foot sculpture of migrating salmon -- not to mention extensive plumbing, electrical and carpentry work on his "chalet" in Girdwood, Alaska. All told, the government calculated that Mr. Stevens took gifts worth in excess of $250,000.

Gross breaches of law and fairness by prosecutors are the reason that Mr. Stevens will walk free. The Justice Department admitted that the lawyers from the Public Integrity Section who put Mr. Stevens on trial failed to turn over to defense lawyers information about contradictory statements by a key prosecution witness. An agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who worked on the case also recently alleged that prosecutors had been willfully withholding pertinent evidence from the defense team. . . .

The decision could not have been easy for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who cut his teeth as a prosecutor in the very same Public Integrity Section. But it was the right call.

Prior posts on the Stevens prosecution can be found here and here.

Terrivus:
Trial records and testimony painted a picture of a man so consumed with his own sense of entitlement that he did not think twice about accepting such expensive freebies as a Viking gas grill, a vibrating Shiatsu massage lounger and a five-foot sculpture of migrating salmon -- not to mention extensive plumbing, electrical and carpentry work on his "chalet" in Girdwood, Alaska. All told, the government calculated that Mr. Stevens took gifts worth in excess of $250,000.

This completely misses the point of an adversarial process -- the very process that is undermined when prosecutors commit misconduct. "Trial records and testimony" are the product of evidence presentation and the challenge of the credibility of such evidence on cross-examination. When prosecutors don't allow you access to certain evidence that might affirmatively help you or punch holes in (or devestate) the prosecution's allegations, then what appears in "trial records and testimony" is not the full truth. I'm surprised that the Post thinks otherwise.

Why on earth should any merit be given to the government's "calculat[ion] that Mr. Stevens took gifts worth in excess of $250,000," when so much of its other contentions were apparently so tenuous that it had to resort to shenanigans in order to "prove" them?
4.1.2009 9:23pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It's almost as if the prosecution knew in advance they had zilch.
So why go ahead?
Well, the dems needed the seat.
If the prosecution had any sort of a clue, it was that Stevens wouldn't resign and spark an election between a couple of clean candidates. That one, they got right.
So Stevens lost by only about 4000 votes despite the best--so to speak--the DOJ could do.
Now, it may not actually be that way. It could be that the DOJ has prosecutors who take high-profile cases as if they were Nifong trying to railroad some laxers. Routinely.
A third possibility does not occur to me just now.

Maybe the cases they've won in the past ought to be reviewed?
4.1.2009 9:30pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
This is the right call. Kudos to the Obama administration for taking the lead on this issue.

If Ted Stevens was denied a fair trial, this is a public offence. Is there any recourse against the federal prosecutors in this case?
4.1.2009 9:33pm
CMH:

Why on earth should any merit be given to the government's "calculat[ion] that Mr. Stevens took gifts worth in excess of $250,000,"


Particularly so, when some of the suppressed evidence placed a fair market value on construction at $80K, but the trial evidence valued it at $188K. So they're admittedly off by a hundred grand, but still reliable?

Kudos at least to the replacement prosecution team for doing the right thing.
4.1.2009 9:36pm
Displaced Midwesterner:

Why on earth should any merit be given to the government's "calculat[ion] that Mr. Stevens took gifts worth in excess of $250,000," when so much of its other contentions were apparently so tenuous that it had to resort to shenanigans in order to "prove" them?


Right result given the misconduct here and the way our system works. But while the misconduct may cast suspicion on the reliability of the evidence, there is just that - suspicion - about the reliability of most of the evidence. By all accounts, what the prosecutors were withholding was not information that Stevens was not corrupt, but information that he might be less corrupt than the picture being painted publicly.
4.1.2009 9:40pm
Terrivus:
By all accounts, what the prosecutors were withholding was not information that Stevens was not corrupt, but information that he might be less corrupt than the picture being painted publicly.

But what is "corrupt"? My layman's definition may be different than yours, which may be different than a third person's. That's why we have laws to define them, and judges to give instructions, and lawyers to present facts, and juries to decide which of those facts are for real and which are bogus and whether they support the legal definition of "corrupt" given to them. And when you play fast and loose with the rules, you distort the entire system.

Furthermore: "what the prosecutors were withholding was not information that Stevens was not corrupt, but information that he might be less corrupt than the picture being painted publicly" -- why even believe that? Why believe what the government is saying this time is, in fact, the truth?
4.1.2009 9:52pm
anon12345:
Because the new trial was necessitated by prosecutorial misconduct, was this case going to be dismissed on double jeopardy grounds anyway? Was the DOJ really giving up another bite at the apple, or were they simply accelerating a likely dismissal by the trial judge?
4.1.2009 10:09pm
CMH:

Is there any recourse against the federal prosecutors in this case?


Prosecutorial immunity is a pretty tough, probably insurmountable, hill to overcome in any sort of Bivens action. The law is pretty clear that prosecutors are absolutely immune from civil liability for violating Brady, et al.

There might be a claim under the Hyde Amendment (to the Equal Access to Justice Act, not the abortion one) that lets a defendant recoup legal fees when the government's position is frivolous, bad faith, or vexatious. Given the breadth and scope of misconduct here, that might be a viable option.

And of course there are professional/ethical ramifications for the prosecutors, but that's likely a small comfort for Stevens.
4.1.2009 10:16pm
Chris 24601 (mail) (www):
A five foot sculpture of migrating salmon? Expensive, maybe, but not valuable.
4.1.2009 10:35pm
Barry P. (mail):
It's almost as if the prosecution knew in advance they had zilch.
So why go ahead?
Well, the dems needed the seat.


How very thoughtful of the Bush DOJ to help out the Dems. Was Goodling really a Democratic deep cover mole?
4.1.2009 10:58pm
Oren:
The real question is this: can we blame Alberto Gonzales?
4.1.2009 11:11pm
Jason F:
Richard Aubrey, is it your contention that the Bush DOJ wanted the Democratic Party to take the Alaska Senate seat?
4.1.2009 11:35pm
Tatil:
If we are coming up with conspiracy theories, how about this? :) He is guilty, so the only way to get him off is to commit some prosecutorial misconduct that will get him off the hook. This might be better than refusing to prosecute, as the misconduct would prevent the new DOJ team to put together a strong case on its own later.
4.1.2009 11:57pm
Cornellian (mail):
Sort of like the Nifong situation except that Stevens, unlike the Duke lacrosse players, really is sleazy.

Still, cases like this make you wonder how many regular people get railroaded by prosecutors every week because they don't have the resources to fight back against prosecutorial misconduct.
4.2.2009 12:22am
Mike& (mail):
Still, cases like this make you wonder how many regular people get railroaded by prosecutors every week because they don't have the resources to fight back against prosecutorial misconduct.

Most relevant comment. Stevens was represented by Williams &Connolly - the firm in D.C. for these types of cases. They are the best, and no one even can debate that.

If DOJ was pulling this stuff on W&C's watch, we can only imagine what happens when they are litigating against firms who lack W&C's resources.
4.2.2009 12:30am
Mike& (mail):
It's almost as if the prosecution knew in advance they had zilch.
So why go ahead?
Well, the dems needed the seat.


Did you even think the Google the prosecutors on the case? Or are you just that simplistic?

Brenda Morris joined the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice in September 1991. After working for twelve years as a Trial Attorney with the Public Integrity Section, she was promoted in March 2004 to Deputy Chief for Litigation. In August 2006, Professor Morris was promoted to the position of Principal Deputy Chief.


So Brenda Morris wanted to help the Democrats.... Why?

If you want a conspiracy theory, here's one: Prosecutors make their reputations taking out big salmon like Ted Stevens.

Of course, if you want a non-malicious one: Ted Stevens was corrupt. Everyone inside the beltway knew it. They've been after him for years, but it's hard to make these political corruption cases. Thus, the prosecutors bent to rules to prosecute a very bad man.

Those are two good theories. The idea that was a way to get the Dems a seat is just moronic.
4.2.2009 12:35am
BGates:
Professor Morris is a native Washingtonian who received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, and her Juris Doctorate from Howard University Law School.

Someone who went to law school at Howard helping a Democrat, of all things.

Mike&'s failure to quote that line would be almost unfathomably dishonest for anyone besides a progressive hack.
4.2.2009 1:04am
Oren:

Someone who went to law school at Howard helping a Democrat of all things.

Right after being promoted twice in 3 years by Republicans!

I do hope that the prosecutors get bumped down to handling meth dealers for a decade or two ...
4.2.2009 1:08am
Syd Henderson (mail):
Chris 24601 (mail) (www):
A five foot sculpture of migrating salmon? Expensive, maybe, but not valuable.


Depends. Is it a really outstanding sculpture of migrating salmon that enriches our culture and begins a new age of piscine aesthetics? Or is it Fish Playing Poker?
4.2.2009 2:26am
Cornellian (mail):

I do hope that the prosecutors get bumped down to handling meth dealers for a decade or two ...


Perhaps it would be more accurate to say "bumped down to accusing
people of being meth dealers."
4.2.2009 3:42am
Cornellian (mail):

Is there any recourse against the federal prosecutors in this case?


Prosecutorial immunity is virtually absolute, so the answer is "no." Not only do you have no recourse, you're also on the hook for the fortune in legal fees it cost you to fight the charges.
4.2.2009 3:44am
Public_Defender (mail):

Because the new trial was necessitated by prosecutorial misconduct, was this case going to be dismissed on double jeopardy grounds anyway? Was the DOJ really giving up another bite at the apple, or were they simply accelerating a likely dismissal by the trial judge?


Generally, double jeopardy does not bar a retrial unless prosecutors intentionally caused a mistrial. Here, there is no evidence (that I have seen) that prosecutors wanted a second trial. So the remedy would almost certainly be a new trial.
4.2.2009 5:18am
Lucius Cornelius:
I think this case suggests that the rank and file attorneys in the Department of Justice may mostly be Democrats. Just because there is a Republican in the White House and a Republican AG does not mean that the lower ranking attorneys are all Republican hacks. Even with the alleged bias in hiring conservatives, I bet that most of the attorneys hired by the DOJ during the 8 years of the Bush administration were Democrats.

The verdict in the Stevens case came out right before the election. I he had been acquitted, he would have experienced a significant lift in the polls and would have probably easily won the race.

Also, the motion to dismiss states that, "the Government moves to set aside the verdict and dismiss the indictment with prejudice." Dismissing with prejudice ends the case, but does that merely mean that the DOJ can issue a new indictment leading to a new trial?
4.2.2009 5:44am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It would be the "Bush" DOJ if Bush had fired all incumbents and hired new ones.
Not eight out of a hundred. Not even 93 out of 94 or whatever Clinton did.
But all of them.
Failing that, it's the same DOJ before and after.
It would be like saying the CIA doesn't leak against Bush policies because it's the "Bush" CIA.
Except they did.
Which leaves us with the question of what, exactly, are the sympathies of the folks doing the grunt work.
As I said, it didn't have to be a matter of trying to get a veto-proof majority for the dems.
It could have been routine.
As in, they do this stuff all the time, even when a high-powered law firm is bound to catch them at it. Or, to put it another way, they ought to know that a high-powered law firm is almost certain to catch them at it and they still go ahead. Almost as if they wanted this result.
You could suppose they didn't figure they'd get caught. Why would that be? 'Cause they succeeded in seventeen out of the last seventeen times they tried? That's yummy.
If everybody knows Stevens is corrupt, there ought to be plenty of evidence. More to the point, exculpatory evidence ought to be pretty scarce. You shouldn't have to hide it.
Maybe everybody knows Stevens is sleazy but not, technically, doing the illegal.
So we punish by legal fees? Go ahead. Tell us why that's the right thing to do.
4.2.2009 6:51am
cboldt (mail):
-- It would be the "Bush" DOJ if Bush had fired all incumbents and hired new ones. Not eight out of a hundred. Not even 93 out of 94 or whatever Clinton did. --
.
Not that it matters in the context of this particular argument, use the Nominations Search Tool at the US Library of Congress to compare ...
.
US Attorneys Confirmed by the Senate Under President Clinton
- 103rd Congress: 87
- 104th Congress: 4
- 105th Congress: 18
- 106th Congress: 14
.
US Attorneys Confirmed by the Senate Under President Bush
- 107th Congress: 84
- 108th Congress: 14
- 109th Congress: 26
- 110th Congress: 13
4.2.2009 7:36am
Per Son:
You guys need to chill when it comes to Mr. Aubry. According to him, everything Dems do is a priori evil. Everything is a conspiracy, and the standard gap filler he uses (when there are facts not in the record) is to state unequivocably that the Dems did something intentionally evil.


On another matter:

Stevens wanted to rush the trial. In fact, he wanted it to be concluded before the election. His own attorneys said they never had a client who wanted to rush a trial like Stevens did. SO all this malarky about the trials timing is bullshit - Stevens wanted it this way.

As for corruption/misconduct/etc/who shot John/etc. The jury determined he was guilty, and the DOJ is now seeking to overturn it because some prosecuters really screwed the pooch. What the prosecutors did was awful, but it occurred on a prior DOJ's watch, a DOJ who had no interest in dropping the charges or reversing the conviction. This DOJ is seeking a reversal.

To some it up - don't try to respond to Aubry. It is as likely to get somewhere as an attempt atcompressing water is. Second, why can't we all agree that what the DOJ is doing now is a good thing; rather, than make all these assumptions of hackery and hyjinks?
4.2.2009 9:18am
Houston Lawyer:
A career officer with the DOJ manages to unethically convict a Republican senator days before the election. Nothing fishy about that.

I hold no brief for Stevens, but this looks like something that Putin would pull.
4.2.2009 9:43am
SPO:
Ok, well, when is WaPo going to talk about the below market rents handed out to Charlie Rangel. If a "freebie" is bad, so is getting rent control rents when the rental company is free to charge you the market rate.

And what about the tax implications of Rangel's acceptance of those below market rents?
4.2.2009 10:01am
Edmund Unneland (mail):
My guess is that the premise for the "conspiratorialism" is that career DOJ people can read polls and figure out which party was coming into their own. After the debacle during Gonzales, there was no way Mukasey could be seen as stopping a prosecution for political reasons, even if there was a legitimate reason to exercise prosecutorial discretion. This is probably not the way it actually happened, but there is something of a rational basis to the thinking.
4.2.2009 10:03am
Paul B:
The smart thing for Holder to do is to come down really hard on the career prosecutors and their superiors in the "Public Integrity" group. Indicting the responsible ones would give him credit with both Republicans and the press for being bipartisan and willing to root out criminality in his own department, while at the same time reducing the ability of this group to investigate future cases which would be mostly found in whatever party is in the majority-namely his party.
4.2.2009 10:21am
Per Son:
Houston.

You said:

"A career officer with the DOJ manages to unethically convict a Republican senator days before the election. Nothing fishy about that."

What about the fact that STEVENS PUSHED FOR A VERDICT BEFORE THE ELECTION DATE!? Stevens wanted the unprecedentedly speedy trial - it even took his own attorney for a leap. Stevens wanted a verdict before the election - and got it. No conspiracy, just a strategic choice.

I found this on thehill.com

"Looking calm in a light gray suit, Stevens appeared in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with his attorney, who asked to have the trial expedited before November and moved to Alaska.

"I appear here not to ask for any special favors ... But I do want to ask the court that he would like to clear his name before the general election," said Brendan Sullivan, Stevens's attorney.

He added that 90 percent of the 30-40 witnesses are from Alaska so a venue in that state would make for easier accommodation. It also would presumably allow Stevens to campaign in October when Congress will likely be out of session.

Sullivan said the case could move swiftly because the defense and prosecution will call
"very quick" witnesses."
4.2.2009 10:32am
Houston Lawyer:
Per Son

That just shows that Stevens thought he would be acquitted. Says nothing about the suppression of evidence that may well have led to Stevens being wrong.

You don't need an actual conviction to derail a career.

I'm still waiting on Tom Delay's trial. Ronnie Earle isn't even around to prosecute anymore.
4.2.2009 10:48am
ShelbyC:

I do hope that the prosecutors get bumped down to handling meth dealers for a decade or two


How 'bout to being handled by meth dealers?
4.2.2009 10:51am
Steve:
It would be the "Bush" DOJ if Bush had fired all incumbents and hired new ones.
Not eight out of a hundred. Not even 93 out of 94 or whatever Clinton did.
But all of them.
Failing that, it's the same DOJ before and after.


This is apparently the result when someone overdoses on talking points. It's kinda sad to watch.
4.2.2009 11:12am
wfjag:

Sort of like the Nifong situation except that Stevens, unlike the Duke lacrosse players, really is sleazy.

Is that Newspeak for "Guilty as sin, and free as a bird" ?
4.2.2009 11:14am
Dave D. (mail):
... Perhaps the "new" DOJ prosecuters of this case found additional evidence of misconduct which they did not want to reveal, and dismissal with prejudice was the only way to not have to reveal it. Sad to see an arrogant twerp like Stevens get off, but sadder to see prosecutors with a duty to reveal evidence get off unscathed. If they have immunity from prosecution, can't the federal bar investigate their ethical lapses and trim their carreers if the evidence shows them to be dishonest ?
4.2.2009 11:21am
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):

Brenda Morris joined the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice in September 1991. After working for twelve years as a Trial Attorney with the Public Integrity Section, she was promoted in March 2004 to Deputy Chief for Litigation. In August 2006, Professor Morris was promoted to the position of Principal Deputy Chief.

The acting head of the Criminal Division, who rushed the indictment unethically, was also a career civil servant. It does look as if the careerists have scored another scalp with Stevens.

A question for the lawyers: Is prosecutorial misconduct in a previous trial for the same offence admissible? If it is, Stevens would surely be acquitted in a second trial. Second question: Should it be? (Yes, I would think.)

What has received little discussion here are Holder's motives. I wonder if it has any connection with Senator Dodd. Is failure to report a favorable mortgage a crime? It is, I suppose if favorable mortgage terms are defined as a gift.
4.2.2009 11:22am
Per Son:
Houston:

You said there was something fishy and linked it to the election. I only pointed out that he wanted the verdict out before the election. He had every right to drag this thing out for many years a la Jefferson. He chose not to.

Where was the Republican support for Stevens when he was indicted? Where was the support during the trial? Where was the support after the verdict?

It was nowhere! I do not believe any candidates or sitting members of Congress, or VP candidates supported Stevens at all. They threw him under the bus. As for the DOJ, Mukasey could have filed this motion, he could have gotten the prosecutors to drop the case and seek a dismissal when the unethical conduct first was revealed. He did not.

There is fishiness in a lot of places, but I fail to see any fishiness (politically motivated fishiness) during the whole Stevens affair. Maybe there was overambitious prosecutors who thought bagging a senator was a one way ticket to superstardom. Maybe Kodos was really running the show. Maybe Bill Clinton was involved and it was all a cover to hide the truth behind Vince Foster.

Just so everyone knows - I fully support the overturning of the verdict and was never convinced Stevens broke the law.
4.2.2009 11:36am
ray_g:
"...And of course there are professional/ethical ramifications for the prosecutors..."

Peals of derisive laughter.

Excepting high profile cases like Nifong, how often are there consequences that seriouly affect prosecutors that engage in misconduct? I suspect very rarely.
4.2.2009 11:47am
Steve:
I do not believe any candidates or sitting members of Congress, or VP candidates supported Stevens at all.

Sens. Inouye and Hatch were character witnesses at Stevens' trial.
4.2.2009 12:11pm
Milhouse (www):


Someone who went to law school at Howard helping a Democrat of all things.

Right after being promoted twice in 3 years by Republicans!

Affirmative action.
4.2.2009 12:47pm
ArthurKirkland:
(1) It seems reasonable that 'exclusionary rule' principles enable Sen. Stevens to avoid a conviction if the prosecutors engaged in misconduct. (It is remarkable how those who loudly depise the exclusionary rule, Miranda, and similar criminal law 'technicalities' become fans when a Scooter Libby or Sen. Stevens is the defendant.)

(2) I see no grounds for sympathy with respect to Sen. Stevens. He gets to skate. That appears to be an undeservedly favorable result, even in the context of losing the Senate seat.

(3) Given Mr. Aubrey's performance in relatively sympathetic territory -- the Conspiracy resides in the Federalist Society's neighborhood -- what would be expected to occur if he visited a liberal or even down-the-middle environment?
4.2.2009 12:53pm
ArthurKirkland:
Comments like the "affirmative action" crack -- almost surely launched by someone who has never met the relevant prosecutor -- keep the Conspiracy classy.

I assume most conspirators (small "c" to include mere commenters and lurkers) wince when they read such a comment, and are discomforted by the thought of sharing ideological spectrum with the authors. Thank you for your decency.
4.2.2009 12:59pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
The assumption that politics motivated Morris may be faulty but so is the assumption that solely because she was a "career prosecutor" she could not be motivated by politics.

Morris is human, not a cyborg. Improper motives can certainly come into play even when you are a civil servant. No one is always above politics.

An assumption either way is just as potentially faulty.
4.2.2009 1:06pm
Patrick216:
This is a colossal blow to the Public Integrity Section. They have a reputation around the country as being very tough, smart prosecutors who, in a non-partisan way, go after corruption. They've taken down some very corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle. Judges, juries and the press give them deference because of that reputation -- which is an important tool in prosecuting corruption cases.

Yet here, it seems clear to me that they went after Stevens as a political hatchet job to favor Obama. You're going to prosecute an 80+ year old senior Senator for allegedly underpaying for work done on his house? In a Presidential election year? It seems rather petty. And the fact that PIS resorted to grotesque prosecutorial misconduct to secure the conviction (which, to a D.C. jury, is not hard to get) simply amplifies that it was a politically-motivated prosecution.

Rest assured: EVERY politician who is prosecuted for corruption from here on out will cite Stevens and say "the government can't be trusted, they lie, cheat, and steal to earn politically motivated convictions." And the result will be that PIS will be less able to crack down on corruption among elected officials.

Nice going.
4.2.2009 1:19pm
Oren:

You're going to prosecute an 80+ year old senior Senator for allegedly underpaying for work done on his house? In a Presidential election year? It seems rather petty.

Sort of like going after Al Capone for tax evasion.

I don't think it's partisan, I think it was meant to be demonstrative. Stephen committed so many borderline criminal acts (along with Inoyue, Byrd ... criminality in Congress is bipartisan) that eventually they had to charge him with something or risk the perception that senior senators are beyond the law.

Of course, they absolutely should have played the case on the straight and narrow. Failure to turn over exculpatory notes?! That's insane. This is a huge blow.

Maybe Pat Fitzgerald will come in and clean things up (anyone going to claim he's partisan? he knocked out of a GOP governor and a Dem governor, went after Daley's croonies and nailed Libby).
4.2.2009 1:25pm
Oren:

Just so everyone knows - I fully support the overturning of the verdict and was never convinced Stevens broke the law.

I'm not convinced he broke the law in the manner charged, but there's no **** way he was a Senator for 50 years without breaking the law at some point.
4.2.2009 1:27pm
cathyf:
Looks to me like DC prosecutors, a DC judge and a DC jury decided that it was like totally unfair that DC doesn't have a senator, and so they snatched one of Alaska's. I mean, it seems only fair -- both Alaska and DC have about 600,000 residents -- why should Alaska have 2 senators and DC have none?
4.2.2009 3:13pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So if Stevens worked to drag the thing out it's better for his election than being convicted before the election?
Better than his acquittal before election?
Those are the three possibilities.
It sure looks as if he planned on acquittal and knew that an acquittal after he lost the election would be cold comfort.
How was he to know the DOJ would screw the pooch, lie, cheat, steal, and misrepresent their case to the court? I mean, hell, prosecutors never do that, right? What if he was depending on the DOJ to be honest? "You effed up. You trusted us."
More fool he.
IMO, the lifers at DOJ looked at the polls, as an earlier commenter noted, and decided that pleasing who was going to be signing their paychecks would be a good thing.
Sort of like figuring out what happened to Berger. Best explanation is that the DOJ looked at what happened to the White House Travel Office when another Clinton was inaugurated and decided to go with the flow.

Anyway, the dems got their seat due to DOJ screwing up. Only question is whether they are always this bad or made an exception for Stevens. And if so, why?
4.2.2009 3:22pm
Milhouse (www):
Arthur Kirkland, what has the exclusionary rule got to do with this? The exclusionary rule, Miranda, and similar "technicalities" are used to keep valid evidence out of cases, and mislead juries into acquitting guilty people. Here we're talking about allowing valid evidence into the case, to prevent juries from convicting innocent people.

A lawyer arguing one of these cases is saying: "Yes, that piece of evidence is true, and clearly proves my client is guilty; but if the police hadn't broken the law the prosecution wouldn't have had that evidence, and my client would have been able to lie his way to an unjust acquittal. Yes, acquitting him now would be unjust, but convicting him would give the police an incentive to go on breaking the law, and that's worse."

The argument here is nothing like that. It runs, simply, "My client is innocent. Had you turned over that piece of evidence as you should have, I would have presented it to the jury, and it might have convinced them to justly acquit." Eny fule can see the difference.

And yes, affirmative action is a perfectly logical explanation for why a partisan Democrat might have been promoted under a Republican administration. Therefore the fact that she was so promoted does nothing to prove she is not a partisan Democrat, out for Republican blood. I don't see why that should make any sane person wince. And I don't see why I should need to have met the woman before suggesting it.
4.2.2009 3:59pm
geokstr:

Oren:
...there's no **** way he was a Senator for 50 years without breaking the law at some point.

Would you also be prepared to use the criteria of being a long time senator to similarly criticize others, say - Kennedy (46 years), Byrd (56), Biden (36), Inouye (49)?

I'm no fan of Stevens, but I do believe everybody should be judged by the same rules, so if Stevens is to be slimed as a crook simply for being there a long time, I'll respect your opinion if you are willing to say there is no **** way the others aren't crooks as well.

At least he didn't get away scot-free after leaving a young girl to die while he consulted with his campaign staff on how to spin his sleazy cowardice. Nor did Stevens ever hold the titles of Kleagle or Grand Cyclops in the KKK.
4.2.2009 4:15pm
second history:
Ken Rudin reported yesterday at NPR that not only was Stevens' case dismissed but the DOJ has moved to vacate Mark Begich's election:


The Justice Department, in the wake of its humiliating decision to drop the corruption conviction of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), has agreed to throw out the results of the 2008 Senate race, in which Stevens was narrowly defeated by Democrat Mark Begich.

. . . [T]he decision to throw out the election results puts Alaska in the uncomfortable position of having only one senator -- a situation endured by Minnesota in the wake of its still-unresolved battle between Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D). And it has outraged Democrats.

Democrats charged that the Justice Department had no right to invalidate the results of an election just because it botched the corruption case. Begich is said to be "livid" about the decision but has yet to formally comment. Stevens' campaign manager said the ex-senator feels "vindicated," but there is no indication that he would consider running in a special election.
4.2.2009 5:14pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):
@second history

from AP today

The Alaska Republican Party is calling for the resignation of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich after the Justice Department dropped charges against the incumbent he defeated last fall, Ted Stevens.

Party officials say Begich, a Democrat, should resign to allow for a special election so Alaskans can vote for a senator without the improper influence of the "corrupt" Justice Department.
4.2.2009 5:17pm
ArthurKirkland:
If law enforcement officers (police, prosecutors) engage in misconduct (with respect to a search), the defendant benefits as society attempts to discourage recurrent by refraining from use of otherwise worthwhile evidence in an otherwise worthwhile prosecution of an otherwise attractive target (the defendant).

Example: A gun dealer engaged in unlawful conduct escapes a conviction because the police engaged in an improper search of the dealer's warehouse.

If law enforcement officers (prosecutors) engage in misconduct (with respect to conduct of the prosecution), the defendant benefits as society attempts to discourage recurrence by refraining from pursuing use of otherwise worthwhile evidence in an otherwise worthwhile prosecution of an otherwise attractive target (the defendant).

Example: A crooked Senator with an inexplicable fancy chalet escapes a conviction because prosecutors withheld information from the defendant's lawyer.

Our society believes people should not be subjected to certain searches, so it implements effective means (incurring a cost, and enabling defendants to benefit) to discourage improper searches. Our society believes people should not be subjected to unfair prosecutions, so it requires prosecutors to show their hands to even scummy defendants and implements effective means (incurring a cost, and enabling defendants to benefit) to discourage improper searches. I see a connection.
4.2.2009 5:37pm
ArthurKirkland:

And yes, affirmative action is a perfectly logical explanation for why a partisan Democrat might have been promoted under a Republican administration. Therefore the fact that she was so promoted does nothing to prove she is not a partisan Democrat, out for Republican blood. I don't see why that should make any sane person wince. And I don't see why I should need to have met the woman before suggesting it.


I gather the "nothing to prove" assertion constitutes overheated rhetoric rather than a reflection of a lack of familiarity with the concept of probability.

I also wonder how the author regards the professional reputations and qualifications of every Department of Justice employee hired during the Goodling-Sampson-Schlozman era.
4.2.2009 5:42pm
ArthurKirkland:
I botched an earlier try, so I will create an edit function:

If law enforcement officers (police, prosecutors) engage in misconduct (with respect to a search), the defendant benefits as society attempts to discourage recurrence by refraining from use of otherwise worthwhile evidence in an otherwise worthwhile prosecution of an otherwise attractive target (the defendant).

Example: A gun dealer engaged in unlawful conduct escapes a conviction because the police engaged in an improper search of the dealer's warehouse.

If law enforcement officers (prosecutors) engage in misconduct (with respect to conduct of the prosecution), the defendant benefits as society attempts to discourage recurrence by refraining from pursuing use of otherwise worthwhile evidence in an otherwise worthwhile prosecution of an otherwise attractive target (the defendant).

Example: A crooked Senator with an inexplicable fancy chalet escapes a conviction because prosecutors withheld information from the defendant's lawyer.

Our society believes people should not be subjected to certain searches, so it establishes rules governing searches and implements effective means (incurring a cost, and enabling defendants to benefit) to discourage improper searches. Our society believes people should not be subjected to unfair prosecutions, so it requires prosecutors to show their hands to even scummy defendants and implements effective means (incurring a cost, and enabling defendants to benefit) to discourage prosecutors' violation of the rule requiring disclosure of exculpatory information. I see a connection.
4.2.2009 5:48pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Arthur.
What is the cost to the prosecution?
So once in a while they lose one.
Big deal.
Are we supposed to see them weeping bitter tears of frustration as some scuzzball goes free? And, even if they do, is that sufficient deterrence to keep them from doing it again?
Keep in mind that they can either let a guy go because the evidence is wrongfully obtained, or they can give it the old college try and see what they can get. If they do the latter, they have a shot. With the former, not at all.
4.2.2009 6:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Can the DOJ really invalidate an election?
Does separation of powers come in here someplace, or is this so far from the Founders' ken that there's no doctrine at all?
4.2.2009 6:05pm
Per Son:
Oy vey. Ya'll should read the entire NPR article, which ends with:

"And yes, in response to several inquiries, this is written totally with April 1 in mind."
4.2.2009 6:19pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
That's a relief.
Sidd Finch has returned, btw, the most complex and believable hoax I ever heard.
4.2.2009 7:04pm
second history:
ruufles:

Fat chance of that happening-and its a good thing that Senate terms are 6 years, because I doubt 6 years from now anyone will remember this.

Richard Aubrey:

Gotcha! The clue should have been the reference to "yesterday." In other April Fool's news, Ann Coulter fell for Car and Driver's AFD joke about Obama prohibiting GM and Chrysler from running in NASCAR.


If Obama can tell GM and Chrysler that their participation in NASCAR is an "unnecessary expenditure," isn't having public schools force students to follow Muslim rituals, recite Islamic prayers and plan "jihads" also an "unnecessary expenditure"? Are all those school condom purchases considered "necessary expenditures"?
4.2.2009 8:20pm
ArthurKirkland:
The costs are borne by society, when otherwise appropriate prosecutions are abandoned and otherwise just convictions lost consequent to measures designed to safeguard freedom from inappropriate searches and freedom from prosecutorial misconduct. (Society also incurs a cost -- with victims of law enforcement misconduct -- when law enforcement personnel are granted immunity with respect to most or all of their conduct; this measure is designed to encourage the sane to work in law enforcement.)
4.2.2009 8:26pm
Oren:


Would you also be prepared to use the criteria of being a long time senator to similarly criticize others, say - Kennedy (46 years), Byrd (56), Biden (36), Inouye (49)?

You mean the one that killed a chick, the KKK member, the countrywide Senator and don't even get me started on Inouye -- he was as bad as Stephens on that **** appropriations committee.
4.2.2009 8:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Arthur.
The costs are borne by society, not by the crooked cops and prosecutors. My point.
4.2.2009 9:08pm
Nunzio:
Maybe Stevens can become the Shadow Senator from D.C. now.

The voters should have voted Stevens out years ago, but, like those voters who have kept sending Kennedy back to D.C. they didn't.

How about some term limits for these congressmen. 36 years total, and no more than 18 years in either house.

And how about some term limits for prosecutors in the public intergrity section.
4.2.2009 9:46pm
Lucius Cornelius:
Another factor not discussed: I would not want to be a white Republican on trial in Washington, DC. And I would not mind being William (Cold Cash) Jefferson or Charles Rangle on trial in DC.
4.2.2009 9:58pm
Lucius Cornelius:
I suspect that Stevens believed he would be acquitted. Hence, he pushed for an early trial so that his acquittal could come before election day. A politician who is acquitted of corruption charges usually gets a big bounce in the polls.

However, as I stated in my post above, a Republican going to trial in DC is at a disadvantage; juries there are often filled with angry people who would love to get a chance to find a non-African American guilty of something. Add to that misconduct by the prosecutors and you have a miscarriage of justice.
4.2.2009 10:02pm
ArthurKirkland:

Another factor not discussed: I would not want to be a white Republican on trial in Washington, DC. And I would not mind being William (Cold Cash) Jefferson or Charles Rangle on trial in DC.


Would you prefer to be a black Republican human being behind a steering wheel in west Texas, or walking on a sidewalk in any predominantly white suburb in Alabama or Mississippi?
4.2.2009 10:18pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Arthur
Depends on the question: DC doesn't have the death penalty, but they do mush up reputations there.
As for your question, yes. Your stereotyping of the South is old, man. Old, done to death.
4.2.2009 10:33pm
Ricardo (mail):
As for your question, yes. Your stereotyping of the South is old, man. Old, done to death.

Because the only real racists left in this country are black people in D.C., of course. Note that more than one person has pointed out the African-American population in D.C. is very much southern in culture and outlook. Does Mr. Lucius Cornelius's comment qualify as "stereotyping of the South"?
4.2.2009 10:45pm
ArthurKirkland:
Your tolerance of stereotypes (and discrimination-related mistreatment) appears to follow racial lines, Mr. Aubrey. Have you ever noticed this before?
4.2.2009 11:50pm
tsotha:
I don't care if there was prosecutorial misconduct or not. You'd have to be blind and deaf not to realize Stevens was dirty. Of course, the same is true of a whole lot of people still in Congress, like Chris Dodd, Jack Murtha, and Don Young.
4.3.2009 12:27am
Oren:
Your stereotyping of the South is old, man. Old, done to death.


Yeah, really old. I mean, that story was written in March!
4.3.2009 2:06am
Public_Defender (mail):
It's very possible, in fact likely, that 1) Stevens was guilty as sin; 2) the prosecutors cheated so badly that justice required the dismissal with prejudice.

Even if a person is acquitted, society can still ask whether the person committed the underlying acts. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard for conviction, but it is not the standard we have to use to judge each other for other reasons. Otherwise, we'd all have to agree that OJ didn't kill anyone.

Stevens was clearly a slimy politician. Was he a criminally slimy politician? I don't know. But "not criminal" is a pretty low bar for U.S. Senators.
4.3.2009 5:09am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I'd rather be a black man driving in West Texas than DC. Seen the murder stats in those places?
4.3.2009 7:38am
ArthurKirkland:
Your commenting record inclines me to sense, Richard, that that you would not rather be a black man under any circumstances.

Which is a healthful approach, in your case, because self-loathing corrodes a person.

Thank you, Oren, for noting the Tenaha story. I was thinking of that episode (couldn't recall the name of the town, which sounds like swell place), in part when I referred to west Texas.
4.3.2009 12:13pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Arthur. See your pharmacist.
4.3.2009 12:31pm
PaulYale (mail):
Isn't the DOJ Public Integrity unit isolated from political influence?
1. Why do so many posters ignore concept of presumption opf innocence?
2. Why did the unit violate DOJ policy by indicting politicn just before election?
3. Why did unit indict for a mere technical offense rather than a common law real crime?
4. Why did the unit cheat if they had a good case?
5. Is there any explanation besides prejudice against republicans?
6. Was the prosection against Libby another example of bogus invesigation by DOJ for political reasons?
4.3.2009 2:46pm
markm (mail):
PaulYale: It seems to me that they thought they had a real case for what is clearly corruption if you believe their interpretation - until they went too far in trying to improve the case. It's not that unusual for prosecutors to get caught this way, and considering how high the odds against them getting caught are when (as in most cases) the defendant gets Hobson's choice for counsel at the public defenders office, I suspect the ones that get caught are a small fraction of those doing it. It's not political, but simple over-eagerness.

As for relegating the prosecutors involved to prosecuting low-level meth dealers, very bad idea - unless you want to let them continue to hide exculpatory evidence, etc., with virtually no risk of being caught by defense counsel. And I've yet to see a prosecutor go to jail for even the most egregious offenses on the job.

They ought to at least lose their law license. Perhaps they will, since this time they made headlines, but most of the time there's no punishment at all - and I think that most likely even this time the only "punishment" they'll actually receive, other than being forced to find a nongovernmental job at double the salary, is a letter from the Bar Association warning them not to do it again, or the B.A. will speak sternly to them.
4.3.2009 6:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Paul, from Yale and, apparently, proud of it, makes a good point.
Either the DOJ public integrity section is like this all the time--and where's the evidence of it?--or this was special for Stevens.
As a sort of jump-start about the evidence, consider that Stevens figured he'd be acquitted; was so sure that he worked to put the trial before an election. So he must have had a pretty good reason for confidence. Might that have been a realistic view of the evidence? And, if so, why would the DOJ have been any less informed?
It took, therefore, lying, cheating, and stealing to overcome the probable substantial advantage Stevens had in evidence.
If he had not had confidence in a substantial advantage, the hurried trial would have been a bad idea.
Or maybe Stevens was wrong.
If so, why did DOJ find it necessary to hide exculpatory evidence?
4.3.2009 10:32pm
caffeine head (www):
the justice system is partially fault, but then it would seem that the public's short attention span might also be at fault in this and similar scenarios
4.4.2009 7:42pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Caffeine.
How did the public's short attention span affect this case?
4.5.2009 7:44am
Oren:
Richard, they didn't wait for the appeals process to clear Stevens name before voting him out. That is to say, they read the big headline (SENATOR CONVICTED) without reading the followup (DOJ CHEATED IN SENATOR CASE).
4.6.2009 3:43pm

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