WASHINGTON — Justice Department attorneys should not face criminal charges despite their "serious misconduct" during the corruption trial of late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a special prosecutor has recommended.
Disclosed Monday in a court order, the recommendation came despite the prosecutor's determination that the Justice Department attorneys had intentionally withheld helpful evidence from Stevens' attorneys during the senator's 2008 trial in Washington's federal court.
Stevens, who died in a small-plane crash last year, lost his re-election bid shortly after being convicted of seven counts of making false statements on financial disclosure statements to hide about $250,000 in gifts and free renovations to his Alaska house.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan threw out the guilty verdict in April 2009 after the Justice Department revealed that prosecutors had kept key information from defense attorneys. Sullivan ordered his own inquiry by a special prosecutor.
The conclusions of that investigation, by defense attorney and former prosecutor Henry Schuelke, were made public Monday.
In an order, Sullivan wrote that Schuelke submitted a 500-page report that found Stevens' prosecution had been "permeated by systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated his defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government's key witness."
The judge added that Schuelke and a colleague, William Shields, determined that "at least some of the concealment was willful and intentional, and related to many of the issues raised by the defense" during trial.
Even so, the report recommended that the Justice Department attorneys not be prosecuted on criminal contempt charges because the judge did not issue a clear order telling them to properly handle evidence and witnesses, Sullivan wrote.
Sullivan did not indicate when he'll make a final determination on how to proceed in the case.
Schuelke investigated prosecutors Brenda Morris, William Welch, Edward Sullivan, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, as well as Nicholas Marsh, who committed suicide last year.