Second Discovery Violation Endangers Stevens Trial

For the second time, the federal prosecutors in Senator Ted Stevens' corruption trial have been chastised for withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense. The first instance is discussed in this post.

This time prosecutors failed to disclose that prosecution witness Bill Allen told the government that "he believed Stevens would have paid for the renovations if Allen had ever billed him." Allen's belief isn't all that important, given Allen's testimony that the person Stevens tasked with talking to Allen about payment told Allen to ignore Stevens' requests to be billed. Still, it's the kind of evidence the government must reveal, and the government's continuing inability to play by the rules has seriously aggravated the judge:

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said the powerful 40-year senator "would not be getting a fair trial if it were up to the government."

That's pretty much always true, but it's nice of a judge to notice. [more ...]

[Judge Sullivan] halted trial testimony so lawyers could prepare for a 4:30 p.m. hearing on motions to end the case or impose sanctions on the government.

Dismissal of a prosecution for a discovery violation is a rare (nearly nonexistent) sanction. Stevens isn't likely to get off the hook because of prosecutorial malfeasance. It will be interesting, though, to see what the frustrated judge decides to do to remedy the discovery violation.

< McCain: Life Isn't Fair | No Help For Homeowners Promised In Obama Speech >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Tinfoil hat (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by magster on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 12:04:32 PM EST
    Are prosecutors acting unfairly under Bush admin. orders to have Stevens emerge as a victim right before his election?

    There are questions which answer themselves. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by scribe on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 12:08:56 PM EST
    Yours is one of them.

    I wondered the same (none / 0) (#15)
    by BernieO on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 05:27:26 PM EST
    thing. It's not like the lawyers in this administration are above political manipulations. I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to screw things up just to make Stevens look victimized, but maybe that is just my paranoia talking.

    Prosecutors routinely "game" the system (none / 0) (#17)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 10:14:47 AM EST
    Deporting witnesses so that they can't testify - or sending "sick" ones out of state. Dis bar them the first time it happens and they won't do it against. It is a manifest injustice and fundamental unfairness they way they conduct themselves these days.

    The Stevens case is not as simple as having a prosecutor doing all they can to convict. In this case, the party apparatchiks have decreed that a mistrial will get Stevens re-elected, thus saving the seat for the Republicans.

    Someone needs to file a RICO suit against the Republican Party for obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, etc. See Guamgate, Abramoff, NSAgate, AUSAgate, etc.


    Wow (none / 0) (#1)
    by Steve M on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:56:40 AM EST
    This is really dynamite stuff.  The judge sounds super-angry.

    Am I wrong, or is Brendan Sullivan (Stevens' attorney) the "potted plant" guy from the Iran-Contra hearings?

    Same guy. (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 12:08:23 PM EST
    "withholding exculpatory evidence" (none / 0) (#2)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:59:13 AM EST
    the federal prosecutors in Senator Ted Stevens' corruption trial have been chastised for withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense.
    Sounds like the Duke Lacrosse trial/sham, fer cripe's sake.

    To be clear (none / 0) (#8)
    by Steve M on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 01:08:33 PM EST
    "Exculpatory evidence" refers to any evidence which might be helpful to the defense, not necessarily evidence which conclusively establishes actual innocence, as was the case in the Duke matter.  In this post, TChris explains the reason why this particular bit of exculpatory evidence may not count for much.

    thread know.

    However, it's going to be tough to explain it to each and every one of the tens of millions of people who see "exculpatory evidence withheld from the defense" in the news somewhere...


    I resemble this; (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 12:05:27 PM EST
    "That's pretty much always true."

    Transparent (none / 0) (#9)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 01:18:46 PM EST
    First they make him a victim and now Palin can support him again. Will this tip the Senate race in AK? Dunno.
    But our politicized DOJ just proved who they are in the tank for, even while pretending to be aggressive. It is very sad when my first reaction is that DOJ wants this result and that is all part of the plan.
    I wish I were naive again. I was happier.

    Interesting question whether the prosecutors (none / 0) (#11)
    by Christy1947 on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 01:34:09 PM EST
    are in effect 'throwing' the case.

    It is boilerplate litigation practice that you need either to produce in pretrial whatever you got that the rules and the relevant discovery request  call for or justify at that time why you withheld it. Privilege, national security, etc. Not turning over relevant items always gets your tush charred if the judge catches it. Always.

    It is also boilerplate that the higher the profile of the case, the more careful you have to be to do everything by the numbers, to produce what you are supposed to or put the justification for not doing it on the record to be reviewed and cleared. Judges DO NOT want to hear you made a clerical error. And certainly not more than once.

    But I am not sure that what would happen here is a tossout of the case. The relevance of the material not turned over must be evaluated. In any event, Stevens would only get in that instance a pr verdict of 'not proven' which is like getting kissed by your sister. If the R position that a case being thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct is a good pitchout, then they also have to say that for Ayers and Doorhn, whose prosecutions in Chi, or at least one of them, were pitched for that, if I recall correctly. And the question of whether the Pros threw the case when the DOJ is so politicized and the defendant is a high ranking party in the same direction as the politicization, would become a huge issue.

    too many conspiracies! (none / 0) (#12)
    by abdiel on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 01:51:32 PM EST
    My fellow commenters, you are way too paranoid that the prosecution is trying to "throw" the trial. If anything, more Stevens news hurts the GOP, not helps them.  The last thing they need are reminders about the corruption when they were in charge.

    More likely than not, this is a prosecutor scared of screwing up a "slam dunk" and not willing to give any ground.  

    I agree (none / 0) (#16)
    by BernieO on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 05:29:26 PM EST
    that this is probably paranoia, but don't forget what they did to Don Siegelman. One of the hallmarks of this adminstration is the politicization of justice.

    Fire the prosecutors (none / 0) (#13)
    by Doc Rock on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 02:19:45 PM EST
    Send them for a review for possible violations of the Canons of Ethics.  And get somebody who can do the job and start over!  Has there been a willful effort to blow this prosecution?

    not so fast there folks (none / 0) (#14)
    by thereyougo on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 02:44:41 PM EST
    the first offense by the prosecution was that the witneness was very ill and had to go home.

    the judge might agree to lesser sanctions because it wasn't like the defense didn't know about the notes, they just didn't hand them over. They were summarized by the prosecution.

    There is remedy and the judge shouldn't hand unky Ted  a free pass.There is plenty other culpatory evidence that can't be       ignored

    Which makes me wonder was this prosecuting USA graduate of that university made famous by Monica Goodling?