Federal Court Holds Stevens Prosecutors in Contempt

sullivanThe United States Justice Department has finally outdone the O.J. Simpson prosecution team as the worst in history. After derailing a relatively straightforward case with prosecutorial abuse and creating major appellate issues for former Senator Ted Stevens (R., Alaska), they have now succeeded in getting one of the most mild mannered federal judges to hold them in contempt — with obvious justification.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has finally had enough with the Justice Department’s handling of the case, calling their conduct “outrageous.” Previously, in this never-ending story of prosecutorial incompetence, the prosecutors almost forced a new trial by withholding evidence. Sullivan considered a mistrial but reluctantly allowed the trial to go forward.

Then last month, Sullivan ordered the Justice Department to turn over all the agency’s internal communications regarding a whistleblower complaint against the FBI agent related to the case against Stevens. The agent, (appropriately named for Stevens) Chad Joy, indicated that there was an inappropriate relationship between a key witness and the prosecutors.
Sullivan has repeatedly asked why the documents have not be turned over and the prosecutors had no explanation. The Justice Department did not seem to think it was important to even prepare an answer for the Court and Judge Sullivan finally had enough: “That was a court order,” he bellowed. “That wasn’t a request. I didn’t ask for them out of the kindness of your hearts. … Isn’t the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days? That’s outrageous for the Department of Justice — the largest law firm on the planet,” he said. “That is not acceptable in this court.”

It was a rare moment in court. Federal judges routinely sanction private counsel for actions that are regularly committed by prosecutors without penalty. Judge Sullivan held all three attorneys in the courtroom in contempt.

I have litigated in front of Judge Sullivan for years and I can say that he is a judge who gives attorneys a great deal of respect and leeway in the courtroom, making him one of the most popular and respected judges on the federal bench.

As for Stevens, the prosecutors have proven his greatest defense asset. Their obvious abuses and mistakes have given Stevens a real chance for a new trial. It is an amazing reversal of fortunes for a man who is the very face of Washington corruption.

For the full story, click here.

8 thoughts on “Federal Court Holds Stevens Prosecutors in Contempt”

  1. In re momcat and mespo727272,

    Brenda Morris is hardly a W appointee, but she *was* promoted during the Clinton reign…

    Brenda Morris

    Adjunct Professor of Law; Principal Deputy Chief, Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
    B.S., University of Southern California; J.D., Howard University

    600 New Jersey Avenue N.W.
    Washington, DC 20001


    B.S., University of Southern California; J.D., Howard University. Brenda Morris joined the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice in September 1991. After working for twelve years as a Trial Attorney with the Public Integrity Section, she was promoted in March 2004 to Deputy Chief for Litigation. In August 2006, Professor Morris was promoted to the position of Principal Deputy Chief. Her staff consists of 30 attorneys and 11 support staff. The Public Integrity Section is a distinctive unit within the Criminal Division which is responsible for the nationwide investigations and prosecutions of corrupt federal employees. As a Trial Attorney, Professor Morris investigated white-collar cases ranging from federal conflict of interest crimes to conspiracy to commit bribery of public officials. Professor Morris has conducted federal trials across the country which ranged from perjury committed by a Border Patrol Agent in Tucson, Arizona, to witness tampering and obstruction of justice in Key West, Florida. As Deputy Chief for Litigation, Professor Morris was responsible for the daily supervision of the Section’s attorneys on all aspects of their complex litigations and trials. As Principal Deputy Chief, Professor Morris continues to supervise all cases in the Section and she spearheads investigations ranging from the Abramoff corruption scandal to corruption matters involving the theft of millions of dollars meant for the Iraqi reconstruction. Professor Morris is a career prosecutor who began as a Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorneys Office under Robert Morgenthau. Her experience in New York proved to be fertile training ground where Professor Morris honed her skills as a trial attorney by successfully prosecuting hundreds of street crimes and winning over forty trial victories. As part of her federal service, Professor Morris has been selected to instruct on white-collar statutes, including conflict of interest, and investigative techniques to international audiences consisting of prosecutors and law enforcement in Katmandu, Nepal; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Bucharest, Romania. In April 2007, Professor Morris was chosen to represent the Department of Justice at the Global Forum V held in Johnanasburg, South Africa. Professor Morris has also instructed other federal prosecutors and federal agents on the federal criminal conflict of interest laws at various United States Attorneys Offices, Offices of Inspector General Offices, as well as the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia. Professor Morris is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center located in Washington, DC, currently teaching a course on public corruption. Professor Morris is a native Washingtonian who received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, and her Juris Doctorate from Howard University Law School.

  2. I hear Eric Holder is dropping all charges against Uncle Ted ’cause the prosecutors lied. Sort of strange justice when the already convicted go free because the prosecutor can’t seem to follow the laws either. Well so what else is new with Bush’s Justice Department? I can’t wait for the inevitable civil suit for malicious prosecution. We’ll get to pay for Uncle Ted’s legal bills. Yippee!

  3. “It is an amazing reversal of fortunes for a man who is the very face of Washington corruption.”

    Gee, no bias here. Appears that one of the (many) documents withheld has the Government’s main witness stating that Stevens (in his opinion) would have paid for the “bribe” if he’d ever been billed for it and that Stevens had asked for the bill. And no showing or even a claim by the DOJ that any benefit was received from Stevens as a result of the work done.
    And it appears that Matt Welch joined the DOJ in the ’90’s. Hardly a “Bush” appointee. We’ll just ignore the timing of the indictment-in violation of DOJ rules.
    Stevens may well be “corrupt”, that isn’t the point.

  4. Those prosecutors have just been yanked from the trial by the Justice Department, and a new team has been installed.

    Josh Marshall has the details over at TPM, q.v.

    Not a good entry on the old resume.

  5. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Stevens’ conviction may be overturned and another corrupt politician laughs in the face of Justice all because of incompetent Bush appointments that were approved by Bush’s incompetent Justice Department. Bush didn’t need to pardon Stevens when he left office, his Justice Department already did.

  6. Today’s legal system does not appear to be concerned with meting justice; rather, many lawyers want to *win* at all costs, involving deceit, stealth, deception, and lies.

    As much as I dislike Mr. Stevens, even he deserves a new trial. The judge appears to have given the Justice Department too much unwarranted deference during the trial.

    The sanctions against the prosecutors must be severe enough to serve as a deterrent and a warning to other government attorneys that abusing judicial deference—or respect—is intolerable.

  7. Any doubt that that clown Rove and the rest of the gang need to go to prison for stacking the DOJ with incompetent tools?

    Get ’em, Judge Sullivan! Next time, let them sit in the pokey until someone brings you what you ordered them to produce.

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