Two prosecutors cited for misconduct in Senator Stevens case
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. prosecutors in the corruption case of the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens face suspensions without pay for engaging in reckless professional misconduct by failing to disclose evidence that could have helped him, the Justice Department said on Thursday.
A report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics office, concluded the prosecutors in several instances failed to disclose the evidence to the defense in violation of their obligations, but their actions had not been intentional.
One prosecutor, Joseph Bottini, faces a 40-day suspension without pay while the other one, James Goeke, faces a 15-day suspension without pay, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said in a letter to Congress summarizing the findings.
It marked the latest embarrassing disclosure for the Justice Department over its botched handling of the Stevens case.
A separate report released in March by a court-appointed independent investigator concluded prosecutors withheld and concealed information from defense lawyers that included witness statements, key details that could have undermined prosecutors' star witnesses and allowed false testimony to be presented during the 2008 trial.
That report criticized the Justice Department's failure to properly supervise the trial team and said prosecutors covered up information that their chief witness, Bill Allen, had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old prostitute.
Stevens, who died in a plane crash in 2010 and had been the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, was charged in 2008 with seven counts of lying on a Senate disclosure form to conceal $250,000 in gifts - primarily the improvements to his Alaska home - from an Alaska oil executive and other friends.
He was convicted days before the 2008 election and lost his bid for re-election, helping Democrats expand their hold in the Senate.
The judge in the case in 2009 overturned the conviction because prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence, as required under law, that could have exonerated Stevens.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, weeks after taking office in 2009, had the case dismissed.
The Office of Professional Investigation opened an inquiry into prosecutorial misconduct and completed a 672-page report last year. The findings were released on Thursday.
Weich said the report did not find misconduct by other prosecutors and did not find they used poor judgment, with one exception. He did not elaborate. One prosecutor in the case, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide in September 2010 while the investigations were pending.
The report concluded a supervisor in the Justice Department's public integrity section used poor judgment by failing to supervise certain aspects of the evidence disclosure process.
The Justice Department decided not to recommend dismissal of the two prosecutors, partly because they did not act intentionally, they both had excellent past work records and had no prior disciplinary measures against them.
Bottini is a federal prosecutor in Alaska while Goeke now is a federal prosecutor in Virginia. They can appeal the suspensions to a government agency called the Merit Systems Protection Board, Weich said.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)
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