A well-respected blogger for the Huffington Post has made an obviously incorrect statement about the circumstances under which the court granted the Department of Justice’s request to set aside the guilty verdicts against Ted Stevens and dismiss the charges with prejudice.
In an article about the efforts of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to overturn his convictions, Sam Stein states that the charges against Ted Stevens “were dropped under proof of selective prosecution.”
This statement is incorrect. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s order granting the Department of Justice’s motion to end the case against Stevens points out that the Department’s request cited the government’s failure to disclose to the defense before the trial notes taken by trial prosecutors. Those notes were of a conversation with key government witness Bill Allen before the trial, and the notes were not turned over to the defense until almost five months after the trial. Judge Sullivan’s order of April 7, 2009 also observes that the newly appointed team of prosecutors admitted that the disclosure—or “discovery”—of those notes to the defense was constitutionally required as part of the prosecution’s obligation to allow the defense to prepare for the trial.
Thus it was violations of the prosecution’s discovery obligations—and not any “proof of selective prosecution”—that led the government to make the request that the court granted to drop the Stevens case.
Siegelman’s attorneys have alleged that federal prosecutors committed discovery violations in his trial, but the Alabama Democrat's charges of “selective prosecution” tied to Karl Rove’s role in the George W. Bush administration have tended to grab the headlines regarding the Siegelman case. If a defendant is interested in results rather than publicity, however, showing egregious discovery violations is more attractive than complaining about “selective prosecution.” A defendant who can show that the prosecution hid the ball massively has a better chance of getting a conviction thrown out than one who claims “selective prosecution,” which is rarely a winner for the defendant.
Stein’s article in the Huffington Post is called “Siegelman Lobbies DOJ To Intervene As Court Deadline Nears” and was Web-posted on May 8, 2009. It is available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/08/siegelman-lobbies-doj-to_n_200509.html on the Internet.