Why Troubled Federal Unit Lost Stevens Case

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The Washington Post dissects the many mistakes made by the Justice Department in the prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).  A primary one:  Prosecutors miscalculated by not seeking more time to prepare for trial, and fell victim to inexperience and thin staffing, which contributed to its alleged mishandling of witnesses and evidence. The newspaper cites “the late addition of a new lawyer; an aggressive adversary who deluged them with requests for documents; and a skeptical judge whose behavior turned unpredictable, then punitive.”

The Post described troubles in the Justice Department’s public integrity section, where it said that “prosecutors and FBI agents are hiring their own lawyers and pointing the finger at one another.” The U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., where the case was tried, refused to participate, saying the case against Stevens was weak. Critics said the case, along with the acquittal of former Puerto Rican governor Anibal Acevedo Vilá (D) last month, exposed problems with a lack of supervision of the Public Integrity Section, which has experienced heavy turnover. “In high-profile cases, particularly cases involving public officials, the vetting process has fallen down,” said Thomas Green, a defense lawyer who won Vilá’s acquittal.

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