Justice Dept. probe finds misconduct by prosecutors in Stevens trial

Story highlights

  • Alaska's Sen. Stevens was convicted in 2008 of accepting improper gifts
  • A Justice Dept. report cites two prosecutors for "reckless professional misconduct"
  • But the report says their misdeeds were not intentional
  • Stevens, who had represented Alaska since 1960, died in a plane crash in 2010
A long-awaited Justice Department report by the internal watchdog unit that monitors the ethics of Justice attorneys found that two of the federal prosecutors in the corruption case against Sen. Ted Stevens were guilty of "reckless professional misconduct" but that their misdeeds were not intentional.
The findings against Justice prosecutors Joseph Bottini and James Goeke centered on their failures to provide Stevens' lawyers with documents that could have aided Stevens' defense.
The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which examines the ethics of Justice prosecutors, issued its report of nearly 700 pages to Senate and House oversight committees, which promptly released the report. It will be the subject of a Senate hearing next Tuesday.
Justice officials determined Bottini should be suspended for 40 days without pay, and Goeke should be suspended for 15 days without pay. Bottini is a federal prosecutor in Alaska, which was Stevens' home state. Goeke is a Justice prosecutor in Washington state.
Stevens was indicted in July, 2008, and convicted in October, 2008, of accepting improper gifts from a contractor friend who performed renovations on his Alaska home, and of lying on Senate financial disclosure documents to hide the contributions.
Just eight days later the long-serving senator was narrowly defeated in his re-election bid. Stevens had been the longest serving Republican in U.S. Senate history, and had represented Alaska since it joined the union in 1960.
Adding tragedy to the controversial prosecution, Stevens was killed in a private plane crash on a fishing trip in Alaska in August, 2010.
The report says among the crucial documents not provided to the defense as required was a memo that showed Stevens' willingness to pay bills that the contractor might have provided.
Attorney General Eric Holder had the conviction dismissed, and largely cleaned house at the OPR office. It is now a requirement of all Justice prosecutors to receive updated training on the discovery process and the requirements to provide evidence.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont will chair the hearing on this report next week.
"In order for our justice system to work, prosecutors must adhere without fail to the directive to seek justice for all parties, not just convictions," Leahy said.