Thursday, October 2, 2008
The trial of Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, teetered on the verge of a mistrial or even a dismissal of the charges on Thursday because of the discovery that Justice Department prosecutors had withheld information that they were supposed to turn over to defense lawyers.
Judge Emmit G. Sullivan dismissed for the day the jurors in the trial, in its second week, and hurriedly scheduled an afternoon hearing on whether he should dismiss the seven felony counts Mr. Stevens faces.
“It’s very troubling,” said a clearly angry Judge Sullivan, who questioned whether someone in the department deliberately concealed the information. “If it wasn’t deliberate, it was gross negligence.”
The surprise development came after prosecutors late Wednesday sent to the defense team a copy of an F.B.I. report of an agent’s interview with Bill Allen, an Alaska oil services magnate. Mr. Allen, who is the prosecution’s chief witness, has been on the stand this week.
In addition to the scolding of the government by the judge, the revelation produced a heated and sometimes personal confrontation between the chief defense lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, and the chief prosecutor, Brenda Morris, outside the presence of the jury.
Mr. Stevens is charged with failing to list on Senate disclosure forms some $250,000 in gifts and services he received from Mr. Allen and his company, Veco, for renovations of the senator’s home in Girdwood, Alaska.
At the heart of the trial is the issue of whether Mr. Stevens knowingly failed to list the gifts and services. Mr. Allen has already testified that he did not send bills to Mr. Stevens because he was explicitly told not to do so by the senator’s personally designated liaison to him.
The belatedly disclosed document is the agent’s handwritten report of an interview of Mr. Allen in which Mr. Allen said he believed that Mr. Stevens would have paid the bills had they been sent to him.
Mr. Sullivan offered a theatrical protest, throwing down papers at the lectern and saying that in his 40 years of practice he had never encountered such blatant government ineptitude.
“The integrity of this process has been breached,” he asserted in asking for a dismissal. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]