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The Campaign Legal Center, a government ethics watchdog, is asking the Justice Department to suspend the attorneys who lead its public integrity section in order to prevent the legal fallout from their mishandling of the trial of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) from interfering with other public corruption cases.
In the wake of the departments April 1 acknowledgement that it had failed to turn over key evidence to Stevens defense team, Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the charges against the Senator and ordered a criminal investigation of the prosecution team.
Two of the people Sullivan singled out for investigation were William Welch, who heads the department's Public Integrity section, and his deputy, Brenda Morris, who was one of the lead prosecutors on the Stevens case. The department has announced that its Office of Professional Responsibility is also investigating the actions of the prosecutors.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday, the Campaign Legal Center asked that Welch and Morris be removed from duty while the investigations go forward just as a police officer is placed on administrative leave following a shooting in the line of duty. The group argues that doing so ensures that ongoing public corruption cases are being handled and supervised by persons whose alleged prosecutorial misconduct are not under investigation.
In October, a federal jury found Stevens guilty of seven counts of failing to report thousands of dollars of gifts on his financial disclosure reports.
Holder told CBS News last week that the prosecutors remain in place, and noted in asking for dismissal of the Stevens case that there has been no determination about the conduct of the prosecutors. Beyond that, a spokesperson said, the department does not comment on personnel matters.