A federal judge in Washington, D.C., focused scrutiny yesterday on a small Justice Department unit assigned to root out corruption when he dismissed the conviction of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and appointed an outside lawyer to investigate allegations of misconduct by prosecutors, the Washington Post reports. The rare move to investigate the prosecutors themselves puts six federal lawyers, accused of mishandling evidence and witnesses, in the awkward position of becoming potential criminal defendants.
The Justice Department usually would examine such accusations internally. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he has no faith in such an investigation after seeing so much “shocking and disturbing” behavior by prosecutors. “In 25 years on the bench, I have never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I have seen in this case,” he said. Yesterday’s court action was the latest twist in the troubled prosecution of Stevens, 85, who narrowly lost a reelection bid eight days after he was convicted of seven counts of lying about $250,000 in gifts and free renovations to his Alaska house.