More prosecutor misconduct in Sen Stevens case

WASHINGTON Mon Nov 21, 2011 11:51am EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An investigation found new evidence of serious misconduct by Justice Department prosecutors in the 2008 corruption trial of Senator Ted Stevens, who died in 2010, according to court documents released on Monday.

Despite finding "significant, widespread and at times intentional misconduct" by Justice Department prosecutors, the investigators decided not to recommend any criminal prosecution for contempt of court, according to an order by the judge in the case.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in 2009 overturned the conviction of Stevens, who was the longest-serving Republican senator in history, because prosecutors failed to turn over to the defense information helpful to Stevens.

A jury had found Stevens guilty of seven counts of lying on a Senate disclosure form to conceal $250,000 in gifts from an oil executive and other friends. The former senator was killed in a plane crash in 2010 in his home state of Alaska.

Sullivan appointed veteran Washington, D.C., lawyer Henry Schuelke to investigate and possibly prosecute the six Justice Department attorneys who handled the Stevens case.

Sullivan said in a 12-page order that Schuelke has concluded his investigation and submitted a 500-page report that remains under seal.

The judge said Schuelke found prosecutors concealed significant helpful evidence that would have corroborated Stevens' defense and testimony. The evidence would have seriously damaged the credibility of the government's key witness.

Schuelke recommended against criminal contempt proceedings. He said to bring such a prosecution there must be a "clear and unequivocal order" on prosecutor obligations to turn over such evidence and none existed in the Stevens case.

One of the Stevens prosecutors later committed suicide while two high-level attorneys in the Office of Public Integrity have moved to other Justice Department jobs. A spokeswoman said the department was reviewing the order.

(Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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