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Report on Stevens prosecution must be made public, judge rules

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer
updated 2:17 PM EST, Wed February 8, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The report looks at misconduct by the Justice Department
  • Some former prosecutors argued the report should be sealed permanently
  • To do so "would be an affront to the First Amendment," the judge says
  • Then-Sen. Stevens was convicted in 2008, but the conviction was later vacated

Washington (CNN) -- A federal judge in Washington ruled Wednesday that a special prosecutor's report on misconduct by Justice Department prosecutors in the case against former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska must be made public by March 15.

Some of the former prosecutors in the Justice Department's anti-corruption unit, which brought the case, had argued the 500-page report by investigating attorney Henry Schuelke should remain sealed and permanently barred from release to the public.

"To deny the public access to Mr. Schuelke's report under the circumstances would be an affront to the First Amendment," ruled U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Last November, Schuelke's general conclusion that prosecutors exhibited misconduct was made public, but Schuelke did not recommend criminal charges because the prosecutors had not disobeyed a direct order from the judge.

Six attorneys were targeted by the report. Four were from the Justice Department Office of Public Integrity and two were on loan from the U.S. attorney in Anchorage.

Stevens was convicted in 2008 of lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms, which prosecutors said was an effort to cover up gifts from a contracting firm.

A week later he lost a close race for his Senate seat. But in 2009, Stevens' conviction was vacated when the Justice Department withdrew the indictment, citing suspected prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010 en route to an Alaska fishing lodge.

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