Stevens Prosecutors Hide Witness' Change of Story (and Witness)

Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens would be an entertaining caricature if he were not actually a senator. His trial is suddenly beset with unexpected drama. What did you expect?

Prosecution witness Rocky Williams, "a construction foreman who was involved in renovations on Stevens’s home," contacted defense lawyers over the weekend and gave them critical evidence that the prosecution had not revealed.

Defense lawyers said Williams told them he spent much less time working on Stevens’s home than Veco’s accounting records indicate. That evidence, they said, “gravely undercuts” the government’s argument that Veco spent $188,000 of its own money on Stevens’s house.


Stevens now has a legitimate opportunity to complain that the government violated its discovery obligations. That argument is strengthened by the government's apparent decision to hide the witness.

Williams had been in Washington, D.C., preparing to testify, but prosecutors sent him to back to Alaska last Thursday, saying they no longer needed his testimony. Prosecutors didn’t alert the defense or Judge Sullivan that Williams was leaving town. Judge Sullivan said he was “flabbergasted” by the government’s actions.

The prosecution's response:

“We believed we disclosed exactly what we needed to,” [prosecutor Nicholas] Marsh said.

If Williams told prosecutors a story during trial preparation that significantly varied from a previous version of that story, the defense had a right to know about it. The circumstances suggest that prosecutors instead canceled Williams' subpoena and promptly shipped him to a different state.

Impact on the trial: so far, none.

In light of the developments, Stevens’s lawyers have asked Judge Sullivan to declare a mistrial or dismiss all charges. Judge Sullivan said he was “not inclined at this point” to take either action, but he indicated that he will recall witnesses who already testified and let Stevens’s lawyers question them again.

The prosecutors just gave Stevens a nice appellate issue. Why couldn't they just play by the rules?

< It's Time For Obama to Seize the Moment | How Much Can You Afford to Lose? >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Idiots (none / 0) (#1)
    by litigatormom on Mon Sep 29, 2008 at 09:47:59 PM EST
    Prosecutors play games with discovery all the time. The rules are clear. The fact that you don't intend to call a witness doesn't mean you aren't obligated to disclose statements by the witness that may be exculpatory.

    If Stevens gets off because of this those guys ought to be fired.

    Well maybe... (none / 0) (#2)
    by piezo on Mon Sep 29, 2008 at 10:09:10 PM EST
    Well maybe old Ted is innocent and is being hosed by Veco. He's an odious little dude but that doesn't make him a crook. Let the truth be known. Prosecutors and DA's are trying always to make a name for themselves (Guliani, Liddy, Bugliosi,etc.) Just hope it's never you they have in their sights.

    Good Grief! (none / 0) (#3)
    by Birmingham Blues on Mon Sep 29, 2008 at 10:41:39 PM EST
    This sounds like something (north Alabama US Attorney) Alice Martin would do, not only violating the rules but too stupid to cover it up.

    Unky Ted has more problems than this witness (none / 0) (#4)
    by thereyougo on Mon Sep 29, 2008 at 11:02:35 PM EST
    Bill Allen was already convicted of bribery, although Ted's indictment is not about bribery, but about not reporting all the gifts he got from Veco.

    And his defense team is called for a mistrail over this and the judge denied it. Ted's team is so hypersensitive that they haggled over semantics calling the remodeled 'chalet' vs. "cabin"; as if accusing the government of making this into a bigger deal trying to minimize the charges.

     Methinks they complain too much and Unky Ted might very well have to get used to a bunk in the grey bar hotel. I'm sorry that it took this long to bring this corrupt Republican to justice.

    Alaska the wilderness state that probably doesn't send much money to DC, but got tons of taxpayer dollars through this thief.

    Judge is being VERY kind to these (none / 0) (#5)
    by befuddledvoter on Mon Sep 29, 2008 at 11:04:45 PM EST
    prosecutors.  The remedy fashioned by the court just places more burden on the defense now to go back and recall witnesses and hope they tell the truth.  So, now the jury would essentially have two different versions of witnesses testimony to choose from.  Not a remedy I would ever be satisfied with.  You would think the prosecution would at least follow the rules in such a notable case.

    i'd love to say i was shocked, (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 03:23:53 AM EST
    just shocked at this! i'd love to, really. unfortunately, that would be a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts. not only am i not shocked, i'm not even particularly surprised.