Federal Judge Appoints Special Prosecutor To Investigate Mishandling of Stevens Prosecution

225px-ted_stevenssullivanIn a remarkable order, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Justice Department lawyers who mishandled the prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R., Alaska). The order reflects a degree of dissatisfaction and distrust over the Justice Department’s own internal investigation.

The decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to drop the case was portrayed as an act of self-discipline by the Justice Department. However, it also served to try to shutdown any further sanctions and investigation by the court. The Court was already moving to take the same actions and it was clear that, if the case remained in court, further sanctions and investigations were on the way. The Justice Department appears to have let Stevens walk in the hopes that it would be able to stop further sanctions against itself and continued embarrassment. It did not work. Judge Sullivan was not buying it. After all, the Justice Department did everything that it could to stop this inquiry and only had this moral awakening on the eve of another hearing and expected sanctions.

The contempt proceedings will focus on William Welch II, chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section; Brenda Morris, his principal deputy and former lead prosecutor in the case; public integrity prosecutors Edward Sullivan and Nick Marsh; and Alaska-based assistant U.S. attorneys James Goeke and Joseph Bottini. However, there were clearly high-ranking career Justice officials and political appointees who were aware of this misconduct and supported it. For months, the Justice Department showed open contempt of the court. Such a position had to have been approved by supervisors or higher ranked officials at Justice. With the court investigation, these other officials may now be implicated in the scandal — the very thing that many may have hoped to avoid by scuttling the prosecution.

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8 thoughts on “Federal Judge Appoints Special Prosecutor To Investigate Mishandling of Stevens Prosecution”

  1. http://jonathanturley.org/2009/04/07/obama-administration-invokes-state-secrets-to-kill-lawsuit-over-unlawful-surveillance-program/#comment-46706

    Patty C 1, April 8, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Thank you Rafflaw and Mike Appleton…!!!

    Exactly my point back on February 9 when I posted with respect to existing cases and the known long standing tradition at DOJ not to interfere with ongoing prosecutions. It’s already in the hands of the judiciary.

    There are also actions Congress has taken which need to be undone as well. It’s not possible to proceed as if these things do not exist. We are not dealing with a clean slate, as it were.

  2. rafflaw, I believe you may be right. We may have to rely on the judiciary to take the initiative on a number of issues, including those now pending in the state secrets case. As for Mukasey, our only consolation is that his appointment as AG got him off the bench.

  3. I think that this turn of events reflects well on General Holder and very badly on former General Mukasey.

    Holder took his time, but he made the right decision after reflection, and did not rush into things.

    Mukasey did nothing while the prosecutorial misconduct took place on his watch, under his nose, in his own building.

    Justice is a lot like an aircraft carrier, with a lot of built-up inertia.

    It even takes the Admiral on Battlestar Galactica a while to change the direction of the entire fleet.

    BTW, the prosecutor who is a Professor of Law at
    Georgetown has now withdrawn from the course she was schdeduled to teach.

  4. This segment from NPR goes into some detail on this story. It gives the judges’ opinion on Holder and the DOJ under bush and obama.


    It is categorically not true that Holder has no clue about the positions he is advocating. These decisions were approved by him (see the ACLU website). You will also hear judge Sullivan on Holder in the piece from NPR. I think obama was counting on his propaganda to work and in many ways, it has. People have bent over backward to excuse obama’s actions while he made one decision after another against the people of the US and our helpless prisoners in Gitmo and other even, blacker sites.


  5. Please please forgive me. But is not the new Attorney General a “Holder in Due Course”

    Could not let this one pass.

  6. Buddha,
    Maybe our hopes of restoring the rule of law rests with the Judiciary and not the Obama Justice Department. At least when it comes to crimes committed by the Bush regime. Is it possible that Holder has no clue as to the decision made by the career prosecutors here and in the thread outlining the Justice Department’s amazing claim of privilege in the spying case? Are these career prosecutors part of the Bush politicization of the Justice Department and did they screw up on purpose to give Stevens an out? We read that Holder was one of the officials in the administration arguing for going after the officials that tortured illegally and then we see these two incidents. I have to go to work now and try to make sense of these alarming cases. Did the Obama Administration think we would not notice?

  7. Come on if I say it does not exist is does not exist. If I happen to be hunting and you get in my way I did not mean to shoot you. There will be no investigations. I am not saying you saw and read what you saw and read it just plainly in light of the facts the way that you read it. I apologize for any of my administrations short comings and they will be supported by the administration to the fullest extent. They were serving a true governmental function and did the best that they could. I am not saying that they were just following orders but that anyone found not to be assisting this administration was acting on its own.

    AIG had nothing to do with the collapse of the Stock Market. I do not understand why the Free Market for America does not work in foreign markets. I saw it on paper and then it disappeared. That if they were not allowed to expand their markets after they had paid all of those claims from the WTC they would have collapsed. We did not understand the european concept of personal liability. Lloyds of London concept of assurance just does not mesh with my concept. Just remember it is not AIGs fault. I did not make any money off of that business deal as a matter of fact I lost money. But for that I cannot tell you exactly how much. I am aware that my personal wealth improved by on 32 % per year for the last 8 and it is expected to continue for the next year and a half. You have to remember everything I had was put in blind trust.

    I do want to make one clarification. I am tired of people blaming the former administration for the acts of a few. You have to remember that we are a free market country. Wall Street, K Street where ever it may be were acting and responding to some unstable market conditions. If my administration had had 4 more years we would have corrected the market conditions. Everyone knows that war time means more profits at home and so certain markets do suffer.

    Gas prices were the new eras form of rationing. Just because the prices increased does not mean that you did not get a better government. You have to remember that for every dollar in domestic oil profit we earned 3x that much in revenue. So you see it is truly a user tax. If you don’t use it you are not taxed.

    I apologize for anyone who does not understand my motivations. I was only acting in what I considered to be the best for America, as I had no knowledge of how much I stood to make. In every life some must suffer, some more than others. Some must earn all of the money much more than others. Heck if I had had any real powers I could have gotten my chief of staff a full pardon. For that I am sorry. Now what was that chicks name that was married to that foreign ambassadors that did not understand the former administrations motivations behind our actions?

  8. Judge Sullivan,

    Congratulations on doing the right thing. Many citizens are behind you in this instance. While I have no doubt Stevens was up to no good, the behavior of the prosecutors was beyond the pale. But perhaps more importantly, We the People grow more distrustful of the DOJ every day in light of their reluctance to restore the rule of law, hold the criminal members of the Bush Administration accountable for their known war crimes or hold the criminals on Wall St. and K St. accountable for their role in breaking our economy in addition to their participation in Bush Co. crimes. One can only hope that other Federal judges will follow your lead in demanding accountability from not only the DOJ in specific, but the Obama Administration in general. Our Constitution and Civil Rights are far too critical to be trampled in the name of political maneuvering designed to protect criminals within the system. Keep up the good work.

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