The Justice Department will drop charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), National Public Radio reports. A jury convicted Stevens last fall of seven counts of lying on his Senate disclosure form to conceal $250,000 in gifts from an oil industry executive and other friends. Stevens, the longest-serving Senate Republican, lost his bid for an eighth term soon after he was convicted. Since then, charges of prosecutorial misconduct have delayed his sentencing and prompted defense motions for a new trial. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to drop the case rather than continue to defend the conviction in the face of persistent problems stemming from the actions of prosecutors.
A judge has repeatedly delayed sentencing and criticized trial prosecutors for what he’s called prosecutorial misconduct. At one point, prosecutors were held in contempt. The Justice Department finally replaced the trial team, including top-ranking officials in the office of public integrity. That’s the department’s section charged with prosecuting public corruption cases. With more ugly hearings expected, Holder is said to have decided yesterday to pull the plug. Holder’s decision is said to be based on Stevens age, 85, and because Stevens is no longer in the Senate. Perhaps most importantly, Justice Department officials say Holder wants to send a message to prosecutors that actions he regards as misconduct will not be tolerated.