Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book 'em Danno

US Judge furious over government's "intentional misconduct". Could Mark Carney be far behind?

This New York Time article, reminds me of the comment made by Brian Ernewein of the Department of Finance, who testified “I guess if we were incompetent, we wouldn’t admit to it”. Brian Ernewein, however failed to indicate whether they would admit to it, if instead of being incompetent, they were actually being fraudulent and corrupt.....or engaged in intentional misconduct with their cooked up tax leakage numbers?

Book ‘em Danno!

Judge Orders Investigation of Stevens Prosecutors

New York Times

WASHINGTON — A furious federal judge on Tuesday took the extraordinary step of ordering that the prosecutors who bungled the case of former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska be investigated for possible criminal wrongdoing.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the charges against Mr. Stevens, which was expected given the way the case has disintegrated since the conviction in October. But the judge went well beyond that step, declaring that what the prosecutors did was the worst “mishandling or misconduct that I’ve seen in my 25 years.”

Judge Sullivan spoke disdainfully of the prosecutors’ repeated assertions that any mistakes during the trial were inadvertent and made in good faith. He said he had witnessed “shocking and serious” violations of the principle that prosecutors are obligated to turn over all relevant material to the defense.

The judge appointed the attorney Henry Schuelke as special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal contempt charges against the prosecution team.

Mr. Stevens, who was defeated for re-election to the Senate in November after being convicted of ethics violations in the case, told the court that the episode had caused him to question some basic assumptions about American justice.

“Until recently, my faith in the criminal justice system, particularly the judicial system, was unwavering,” he said. “But what some members of the prosecution team did nearly destroyed my faith. Their conduct had consequences for me that they will never realize and can never be reversed.”

Brendan Sullivan, Mr. Stevens’s chief counsel, said it was clear to him that “the government engaged in intentional misconduct.”

Paul O’Brien, chief of the prosecution team that supplanted the original members after problems with the case surfaced, said, “We deeply regret that this has occurred.”

The ethics case against Senator Stevens was to have been a signal achievement for the Justice Department’s elite anticorruption unit, for decades the lead prosecutors on the nation’s highest-profile cases. Now, it will be recalled for years as a low point for the department.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the conviction, lawyers poring over the wreckage have said the case had been poorly managed and inadequately supervised, that insufficient resources were devoted to it and that it was hampered by conflicts between prosecutors and F.B.I. agents that went on for months.

Even before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. moved last week to void the conviction, the trial record was filled with instances of serious prosecutorial mistakes that dismayed the large corps of Washington lawyers who followed the case, including former prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Most alarming to these lawyers was the prosecutors’ repeated failure to disclose information that might have helped the defense, despite the sanctity in which lawyers are taught to hold those obligations.

In an example of the disarray of the government team, one F.B.I. agent said in an affidavit that as many as 30 boxes of unsorted evidence sat outside a prosecutor’s office as the trial was to begin.

The prosecution team was split between lawyers from Alaska and members of the public integrity unit in Washington, and they sometimes disagreed. Washington sent in a lead prosecutor late in the investigation, rankling lower-level lawyers even more.

The most important question that remains largely unanswered, said officials and veteran lawyers, is whether the corner cutting, especially the serial concealment of information damaging to the government, was a result of flawed judgments and heavy workloads or an intentional step by prosecutors to increase their chances of winning a high-profile conviction.

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