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No mention of Bush DOJ in front-page Wash. Post article on Stevens trial

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on April 9th, 2009 4:39 am by HL

No mention of Bush DOJ in front-page Wash. Post article on Stevens trial

In an April 8 front-page Washington Post article about a probe into allegations of misconduct by federal prosecutors during former Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-AK) corruption trial, staff reporter Del Quentin Wilber wrote that Attorney General Eric Holder must try “to remake the reputation of his department, which has been troubled in recent years,” and also reported that U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan — who criticized “the mishandling and misconduct” in the Stevens trial — “asked Holder to better train prosecutors.” But Wilber did not mention that Sullivan assigned blame to the Bush Justice Department and, specifically, to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey for mishandling the Stevens trial. Nor did Wilber address any other conduct by the Bush administration — again, preceding Holder’s tenure — that resulted in the Justice Department’s tarnished “reputation,” such as the politicization of hiring practices, the improper firing of U.S. attorneys under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and the adoption of contentious Office of Legal Counsel memos about torture and presidential authority that were eventually withdrawn.

As The Associated Press reported on April 7, “Sullivan said the misconduct [in the Stevens trial] was too serious to be left to an internal investigation by the Justice Department, which he said dragged its feet before investigating. He criticized former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for not responding to complaints: ‘Shocking, but not surprising,’ Sullivan said.” The New York Times similarly reported on April 8: “Judge Sullivan also criticized Michael B. Mukasey, the last attorney general in the Bush administration, saying it was shocking that he had failed to respond to letters from the defense team complaining about the Stevens prosecution. Mr. Mukasey’s office would not comment.” Wilber’s colleague at the Post, Dana Milbank, also noted Sullivan’s criticism of Mukasey, writing in his April 8 Washington Sketch column, “When the judge heard that Stevens’s attorneys sent three letters about prosecutorial misconduct to former attorney general Michael Mukasey but received no response, he called it ‘shocking — but not surprising.’ “

From Wilber’s April 8 Washington Post article:

A federal judge focused scrutiny yesterday on a small Justice Department unit assigned to root out corruption when he dismissed the conviction of former senator Ted Stevens and appointed an outside lawyer to investigate allegations of misconduct by prosecutors.

The rare move to turn the investigation on the prosecutors themselves puts six federal lawyers, accused of mishandling evidence and witnesses, in the awkward position of becoming potential defendants in a criminal trial. It also creates a challenge for the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who must put a tainted prosecution behind him as he tries to remake the reputation of his department, which has been troubled in recent years.

The Justice Department would usually examine such accusations internally. But U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said yesterday that he has no faith in such an investigation after seeing so much “shocking and disturbing” behavior by the government.

“In 25 years on the bench, I have never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I have seen in this case,” he said.

[…]

And in February, Sullivan held three prosecutors in contempt for not complying with an order to produce documents connected to an investigation of the FBI agent’s allegations. The judge said the most recent allegation linked to prosecutors’ notes was “the most shocking and serious” so far.

Sullivan asked Holder to better train prosecutors in how to handle evidence and witness statements that may be helpful to defendants.

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