Attorney General Eric Holder has dropped the case against Ted Stevens, NPRâ€™s Nina Toalatenberg reports.
A jury convicted Stevens last fall of seven counts of lying on his Senate disclosure form in order to conceal $250,000 in gifts from an oil industry executive and other friends. Stevens was the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, however, he lost his bid for an eighth full term in office just days after he was convicted. Since then, charges of prosecutorial misconduct have delayed his sentencing and prompted defense motions for a new trial.
According to Justice Department officials, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to drop the case against Stevens rather than continue to defend the conviction in the face of persistent problems stemming from the actions of prosecutors.
The judge in the Stevens case has repeatedly delayed sentencing and criticized trial prosecutors for what heâ€™s called prosecutorial misconduct. At one point, prosecutors were held in contempt. Things got so bad that the Justice Department finally replaced the trial team, including top-ranking officials in the office of public integrity. Thatâ€™s the departmentâ€™s section charged with prosecuting public corruption cases.
With more ugly hearings expected, Holder is said to have decided late Tuesday to pull the plug. Stevensâ€™ lawyers are expected to be informed Wednesday morning that the department will dismiss the indictment against the former senator.
Unfortunately, while I have no reasonable doubt that Stevens was guilty of the crimes with which he was charged, I also believe Holder is doing the right thing here. Itâ€™s well past time to reign in federal prosecutors who, in high profile cases, seem willing to use any means necessary to get their man.
So, good for Eric Holder for making the hard, right call here. Letâ€™s hope it sends the right message.