Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is irascible, choleric and was the longest serving Republican in the Senate. He rarely smiles and is the personification of the old fart and royal pain in the arse. He's 112 years old and pulls the wings off of butterflies. Mother Teresa would've slapped him and Will Rogers wouldn't have liked him. And those are his good points. Stevens was the walking poster boy for the necessity of term limits. Fine.
But what our government did to him in its corruption prosecution was worse than anything this curmudgeon ever did or was alleged to have done.
The New York Times reports that his case was dismissed after a series of unfathomable errors, negligence and, worse, the deliberate withholding of exculpatory evidence by Department of, get this, Justice prosecutors and officers of the court. Newly-minted A.G. Eric Holder asked that the charges be dismissed after more evidence of prosecutorial concealment was discovered.
Since 1963, the U. S. Supreme Court's holding in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, mandates that prosecutors turn over all evidence which does or may exculpate a defendant in a criminal case. Prosecutors are after justice, after all, so if they encounter evidence which would tend to or may exonerate a criminal defendant, they absolutely must make that evidence available. To think, prior to 1963, there were no rules for such. Don't get too excited. After all, before the XIII Amendment, slavery was okey-dokey.
Stevens was indicted for failing to list on Senate disclosure forms roughly $250,000 worth of goods and services he received to improve his Alaska home. The Times article reports that during the five-week trial, prosecutors were repeatedly forced to acknowledge that they had failed to turn over information to defense lawyers as required.
"Again and again, both during and after the trial in this case, the government was caught making false representations and not meeting its discovery obligations," Judge Emmet Sullivan said yesterday. Days after Mr. Stevens was found guilty on seven felony counts last October, he barely lost re-election. I know, no one's crying, save Stevens, of course. But that's not the point.
His lawyer, the famed Brendan Sullivan (no relationship I hope to the judge), who, along with the help of the dreaded ACLU, was successful in getting Oliver North off the hook using that tried and true loophole called the Fifth Amendment, repeatedly accused the prosecutors of blindsiding him. That ain't kosher and it ain't cricket. (By the by, that referenced Commie group the ACLU also filed an amicus curiae brief in Rush Limbaugh's Florida case. Neither Rush nor his lawyers refused its assistance.)
Judge Sullivan has referred the case for a criminal investigation of the prosecutors. Hooray! For far too long, prosecutors have not been held accountable for deliberate acts of misconduct, and you can't get any worse than deliberately withholding evidence that corroborates a defense theory or exculpates. Granted, they're entitled to immunity when they act in good faith, but for far too long they've been given a pass.
And what I hope this case inspires is a concerted effort on the part of law enforcement agencies and justice departments to also go after prosecutors and cops who withhold evidence in murder, rape and other serious felony cases. How many times have you heard that jailhouse snitches were given sweetheart deals when the substance of their testimony was shaky, suspect or a downright pack of lies? Where the prosecutors and cops knew or should have known better.
Until we see these folks frogmarched into jail, we'll see more of this. And whether it's Ted Stevens or Ollie North, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter -- OK, maybe not Coulter -- the law is the law and we should celebrate when the unscrupulous are caught and when justice is served. Even if that means that the guilty walk. And even if the guilty are folks you can't stand -- Ann Coulter, again, comes to mind. (Remember those alleged Florida voter law irregularities?)
God Bless America.