Place Stevens' cloud over Bush prosecutors


POSTED: Saturday, April 04, 2009

AFTER losing his U.S. Senate seat last year following his conviction on corruption charges, Ted Stevens of Alaska vowed that he would “;see the day when I can remove the cloud that currently surrounds me.”; The Justice Department's decision to drop all charges against Sen. Daniel Inouye's longtime friend should shift the cloud over the prosecutorial avarice that ran amok in the Bush administration.

During Stevens' trial, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan repeatedly scolded federal prosecutors for concealing information from defense lawyers and found the chief and deputy of the Justice Department public integrity division in contempt of court. New disclosures show that the concealment went far beyond what was revealed at the trial.

Stevens was accused of accepting bribes from Bill J. Allen, former executive of an oil services company, who oversaw the 2000 renovation of Stevens' Alaska chalet. In October 2002, Stevens stated in a note to Allen, “;You owe me a bill ... Friendship is one thing. Compliance with the ethics rules entirely different.”;

The note was evidence in last year's trial, but Allen testified that a mutual friend, Bill Persons, had told him to ignore the note, that it was intended as cover. However, Allen had told two prosecutors in April 2008 that he did not remember the conversation with Persons. Notes of the prosecutors' interview of Allen were not disclosed to the defense.

Instead of seeking a new trial, Attorney General Eric F. Holder Jr. said he was dropping all charges against Stevens “;in consideration of the totality of the circumstances.”; Stevens is 85, and the conviction undoubtedly was decisive in his defeat for re-election last November. Unfortunately, that injustice cannot be erased.