STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER REGARDING UNITED STATES V. THEODORE F. STEVENS
“In connection with the post-trial litigation in United States v. Theodore F. Stevens, the Department of Justice has conducted a review of the case, including an examination of the extent of the disclosures provided to the defendant. After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial. In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.
“The Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct a thorough review of the prosecution of this matter. This does not mean or imply that any determination has been made about the conduct of those attorneys who handled the investigation and trial of this case.
“The Department of Justice must always ensure that any case in which it is involved is handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice. Under oftentimes trying conditions, the attorneys who serve in this Department live up to those principles on a daily basis. I am proud of them and of the work they do for the American people.”
Read the government's filing here.
Statement from former Sen. Ted Stevens:
I am grateful that the new team of responsible prosecutors at the Department of Justice has acknowledged that I did not receive a fair trial and has dismissed all the charges against me. I am also grateful that Judge Emmet G. Sullivan made rulings that facilitated the exposure of the government’s misconduct during the last two years. I always knew that there would be a day when the cloud that surrounded me would be removed. That day has finally come.
It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair. It was my great honor to serve the State of Alaska in the United States Senate for 40 years.
I thank my wife Catherine, as well as my family, friends, and colleagues in the United States Senate who stood by me during this difficult period. I also want to thank the great number of Alaskans who offered their prayers and support.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY LLP
BRENDAN V. SULLIVAN, JR. AND ROBERT M. CARY - COUNSEL TO SENATOR TED STEVENS
We are grateful to learn that Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to drop all charges against Senator Ted Stevens. That decision is justified by the extraordinary evidence of government corruption in the prosecution of Senator Stevens.
This jury verdict was obtained unlawfully. The government disregarded the Constitution, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and well-established case law such as Brady v. Maryland, Giglio v. United States, and United States v. Safavian, which require the government to reveal to the defense all evidence that demonstrates the innocence of the accused.
The misconduct of government prosecutors, and one or more FBI agents, was stunning. Not only did the government fail to disclose evidence of innocence, but
instead intentionally hid that evidence and created false evidence that they provided to the defense.
The government also presented false evidence on a key matter when it elicited testimony from its principal witness – Bill Allen – that a crucial hand-written note by Ted Stevens was an effort to “cover his ass.” This testimony was false and a “recent fabrication.” Members of the prosecution team knew that it was false. Nonetheless, it was presented by the prosecution at trial in a manner to give it maximum “bombshell” effect. Bill Allen had no recollection of the “CYA” statement when first questioned about it on April 15, 2008 in a meeting with four prosecutors and an FBI agent, but was subsequently “pushed” to provide the false “bombshell” testimony favorable to the prosecution.
On February 16, 2009, a new team of prosecutors was assigned after members of the original government trial team were held in contempt of court. The new team of government lawyers provided to the defense clear evidence that the “CYA” testimony was false. In essence, the government tricked the jury into returning a tainted verdict against the Senator based on false evidence.
There are heroes in this story. First and foremost is Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who throughout the proceedings employed his judicial scrutiny and instincts, which led him to conclude that the government was acting improperly. Judge Sullivan repeatedly warned the government about its obligations to produce Brady material that was being hidden. His concerns were reflected in his strong statements during trial:
• “How does the Court have any confidence that the Public Integrity Section has integrity?”
• “Thank goodness we don’t have to rely upon the United States to give him a fair trial.”
• “It’s a sad commentary, though, when the United Sates of America says this is a defendant’s lucky day because we finally complied with the Judge’s Order.”
• “The prosecutors have an obligation to turn it over the defendant. This is not about prosecution by any means necessary. . . . . And do you know what? If prosecutors don’t want to do that, they ought to resign. . . . Because the integrity of our system of justice depends upo fair-minded prosecutors abiding by the oath they’ve taken to apply the law and to follow the law.”
Judge Sullivan gave the defense the ability to press for evidence of misconduct. When he did so, more and more evidence came to light, including the most recent revelation about false testimony. Had Judge Sullivan accepted the word of government prosecutors as is done often in our courts, the extraordinary misconduct would never have been uncovered, and the trial verdict might have survived appellate review. Judge Sullivan prevented such a tragic outcome.
The new prosecutors are also heroes. They include Paul M. O’Brien, Chief, Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Section; David L. Jaffe, Deputy Chief, Domestic Security Division; and William J. Stuckswich, Senior Trial Attorney, Fraud Section. They aggressively pursued the truth and provided to the defense extraordinary evidence of misconduct by other prosecutors who tried the Stevens case. Based on evidence they provided as recently as last week, it became certain that once such information came to light, the Court would have dismissed the case based on motions presented by the defense.
Attorney General Eric Holder, too, should be commended. He is a pillar of integrity in the legal community, and his actions today prove it. Moreover, he has demonstrated the kind of leadership that we defense lawyers seek and that the Department of Justice desperately needs. Ineffective leadership permits this type of prosecutorial misconduct to flourish.
This case is a sad story and a warning to everyone. Any citizen can be convicted if prosecutors are hell-bent on ignoring the Constitution and willing to present false
There are thousands of ethical prosecutors and FBI agents who have our admiration and respect for the work they do. The wrongdoing of a few should not taint the majority. Some ethical government attorneys who came late to this case were lied to by the original trial team. Accordingly, it is crucial that this matter be fully investigated to determine the complete facts and assess responsibility.
Senator Ted Stevens has served his country with distinction in the United States Senate for more than forty years. He is a World War II veteran and a life-long public servant. He did not deserve this prosecution by rogue prosecutors trying to make reputations for themselves.
Williams & Connolly is proud to have defended Senator Ted Stevens.
Statement from Sen. Lisa Murkowski:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued the following statement regarding the Justice Department’s decision today to drop all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens:
“I was pleased with the news that the Justice Department will drop all charges against Senator Ted Stevens, but I am deeply disturbed that the government can ruin a man’s career and then say ‘never mind.’ There is nothing that will ever compensate for the loss of his reputation or leadership to the State of Alaska.
“Our nation is governed by the rule of law, and violations of our civil liberties cannot be tolerated. Prosecutors and law enforcement have the power to bring the full weight of the government to bear on individuals. If they are willing to bend the law, they put all of our civil liberties at risk.”
Statement from Rep. Don Young:
Washington, D.C. – Alaskan Congressman Don Young issued the following statement today following news that the Department of Justice has chosen to drop charges against former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens:
“Ted was not only my colleague but he is my good friend, and today is a great day for him and the state of Alaska; justice has finally been served,” said Rep. Young. “This has been a long, hard road for him and his family, friends, and staff. Those of us who know Ted have always known he is a good and honorable man who has spent his career providing for the state that he loves. It’s a shame that Alaskans lost one of the best lawmakers they’ve ever had last year over a false conviction but his legacy in Alaska will always live on. I join my fellow Alaskans today in standing by Ted and congratulating him and Catherine on the courage they’ve shown throughout this ordeal and the end of this difficult journey.”
Statement from Sen. Mark Begich:
On Wednesday morning, Senator Begich responded to news from the Department of Justice regarding an end to the prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens:
“Assuming this morning’s media reports are accurate, the decision by President Obama’s Justice Department to end the prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens is reasonable. I always said I didn’t think Senator Stevens should serve time in jail and hopefully this decision ensures that is the case. It’s time for Senator Stevens, his family and Alaskans to move on and put this behind us.”
Statement from Gov. Sarah Palin:
Governor Sarah Palin today released the following statement in response to the dismissal of the indictment against former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens:
“Senator Stevens deserves to be very happy today. What a horrible thing he has endured. The blatant attempts by adversaries to destroy one’s reputation, career and finances are an abuse of our well-guarded process and violate our God-given rights afforded in the Constitution. It is a frightening thing to contemplate what we may be witnessing here – the undermining of the political process through unscrupulous ploys and professional misconduct. Senator Stevens and I had lunch together recently at my home and he reiterated the faith he held for vindication; he never gave up hope. It is unfortunate that, as a result of the questionable proceedings which led to Senator Stevens’ conviction days before the election, Alaskans lost an esteemed statesman on Capitol Hill. His presence is missed.”
Statement from Alaska Democratic Party:
Alaska Democratic Party Chair Comments on Reversal of Ted Stevens’ Conviction
Anchorage - Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins today issued the following statement:
“Although there were problems with the trial, Ted Stevens never denied the illegal conduct that he was charged with and for which a jury found him guilty.
“It’s good that Obama’s Justice Department believes that all lawyers, including its lawyers, have to follow the rules.”