DOJ Gets More Time to Answer Stevens Judge

Posted January 17, 2009 at 7:12pm

The Department of Justice apparently has filed an appeal that eliminated a Saturday deadline for providing a letter to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan explaining errors made in the trial of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

On Friday, Sullivan admonished federal prosecutors in the Stevens trial after government attorneys erred in the courtroom by informing the judge that an FBI agent was denied whistle-blower protection when no such decision had been made, and then framed the incident as an unfortunate mistake.

Sullivan demanded that the department file by Saturday a detailed description — signed by the attorney general — of who knew about the decision and how it was made, but that deadline was eliminated by a government appeal, and the department will not immediately file the explanation Sullivan demanded.

Stevens was convicted in October on seven counts of failing to report on his annual financial disclosure forms hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts he received over several years. The largest of these gifts was the renovation of his home in Girdwood, Alaska, by employees of the oil services company VECO, which was owned by Stevens’ friend Bill Allen.

Late Friday, the government filed several briefs opposing Stevens’ various motions to dismiss the charges against him.

In an 80-page brief, the government made a point-by-point rebuttal of Stevens’ list of allegations that mistakes by the judge and misconduct by the prosecutors entitle the former Senator to a new trial.

Errors that were made by the prosecution, such as providing inaccurate billing records indicating material and labor costs that VECO spent on the renovation of Stevens’ home, were rectified by the judge’s penalties — in this case striking the erroneous records from the evidence — the government claims.

The judge also threw out allegations regarding a swap of automobiles that was beneficial to Stevens when the prosecution attempted to establish the value of one of the cars by introducing into evidence a check that the government had not previously disclosed to the defense.

In Friday’s brief, the government acknowledged “This was error,” but added “the government paid a heavy price for its mistake.”

Stevens’ allegation that the government attempted to hide potential witnesses to prevent the defense from interviewing them “is just a reckless shot in the dark” with no basis in fact, the prosecutors contend.

Oddities with the jury — one juror lied about the death of her father and abandoned the panel shortly after it had begun deliberating — did not prove that the jury deliberation had been prejudiced against him, the government argues.

In one motion, the government contends that Stevens was properly convicted of two crimes — failing to report gifts on his disclosure forms, and employing a scheme to cover up the gifts — despite the argument of Stevens’ attorneys that the two prongs of the case are duplicative.

In another motion, the government rejects Steven’s appeal to the judge to overrule the jury and unilaterally issue an acquittal on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction. In its response, the government lays out elements of the case against Stevens and argues that there was plenty of evidence to support his conviction.