Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Prosecution to Nowhere? (The Sequel)

One of the more compelling political stories last year was that of ex-Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (of "The Tubes" fame), who simultaneously ran for reelection while going through a nasty corruption trial. Neither went well for him - he lost the election (only barely) and was convicted on the criminal charges. However, as I wrote at the time, it wasn't a particularly smooth road to conviction for the Government.

Things have not improved for the Government since. In fact, the wheels have come off a bit, as tends to happen when a federal judge holds three prosecutors in contempt (via Volokh):

During yesterday's hearing, Sullivan repeatedly asked three Justice Department lawyers sitting at the prosecution's table whether they had some reason not to turn over the documents. They finally acknowledged they did not, and Sullivan exploded in anger.

'That was a court order,' he bellowed. 'That wasn't a request. I didn't ask for them out of the kindness of your hearts. . . . Isn't the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?'

* * *

'That's outrageous for the Department of Justice -- the largest law firm on the planet,' he said. 'That is not acceptable in this court.'
As the article points out, courts just don't hold prosecutors in contempt every day. That's doubly true for AUSAs. At the end of the day, Stevens is still convicted and, of course, unemployed. Whether all this is enough to win him a new trial is anybody's guess.

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