National Public Radio has reported that the prosecutors in the botched prosecution of Ted Stevens will not face criminal charges of contempt of court.
The news organization also known as NPR says that “two sources familiar with the case” have said that a report by a court-appointed special counsel will not recommend criminal charges for any of the government attorneys involved in the 2008 prosecution of the then-U.S. Senator.
A trial produced jury verdicts of guilty on all seven felony counts brought against Stevens, but the Department of Justice agreed in April of 2009 to the dismissal of the case and the setting aside of those verdicts in the wake of revelations of prosecutorial misconduct. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presided over the Stevens trial, took the highly unusual step of appointing Washington lawyer Henry Schuelke to investigate six Department of Justice attorneys for possible criminal charges of contempt of court. Those six attorneys included four from the Department’s elite Public Integrity Section—William Welch, Brenda Morris, Nicholas Marsh, and Edward Sullivan. "The Stevens Six" also included two lawyers on loan from the Anchorage U.S. Attorney’s Office, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke.
NPR also reported today that the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”) has completed its own separate investigation into the prosecutors’ handling of the Ted Stevens case. OPR is the DoJ’s internal ethics watchdog, and the NPR report says that OPR has completed a report flowing from the investigation.
Based on Carrie Johnson’s article on the NPR website, various figures on the government’s trial team will fare differently in that OPR report on professional misconduct in the Stevens case.
NPR said that “the two sources” said that the OPR report did not make findings of misconduct against William Welch, who headed the Public Integrity Section during the trial, or Welch’s deputy Brenda Morris, who served as the lead prosecutor in court despite being added to the prosecution team only weeks before the trial.
NPR’s article says that Nicholas Marsh, one of the other two government lawyers who spoke before the jury, “was not the subject of specific findings in the report.” Marsh committed suicide September 26, about a month after Ted Stevens died in an airplane crash in southwest Alaska.
NPR’s report states “Alleged misconduct by two Alaska prosecutors, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, is described in the report, the sources said, as is FBI agent Mary Beth Kepner, who was the subject of a complaint by another FBI agent who portrayed himself as a whistleblower.”
Along with Morris and Marsh, Bottini was the third member of the government’s trial team who spoke in front of the jury. Kepner was the FBI agent who apparently originated the federal government’s “POLAR PEN” probe into Alaska public corruption that produced the prosecutions against Ted Stevens and 11 others. Kepner served as the co-lead agent on “POLAR PEN” with Chad Joy, an FBI agent whose post-trial complaint led to the unraveling of the Stevens prosecution and the stalling of the whole “POLAR PEN” probe.
Johnson’s article says that another prosecutor, Edward Sullivan, “also emerged from the investigation without major trouble.” Edward Sullivan and James Goeke were mostly behind the scenes during the prosecution, and they apparently concentrated on responding to the flood of motions produced by Ted Stevens’ aggressive defense team at the law firm of Williams & Connolly.
On a separate front, Welch and Morris last week filed formal notices of appeal of Judge Sullivan’s ruling that they committed civil contempt of court in post-trial proceedings regarding Joy’s complaint. Judge Sullivan imposed no punishment based on that finding of civil contempt.
Carrie Johnson’s article on the NPR website can be found at http://www.npr.org/2010/11/15/131332081/stevens-prosecutors-won-t-face-criminal-charges on the Internet.