The dropping of the corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) points to an overhaul of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, says the Washington Post. Two of the section’s lawyers were cited for contempt of court by the Stevens trial judge. That ruling triggered an internal ethics probe that has produced an awkward situation in which prosecutors and FBI agents who worked side by side on the case are pointing fingers at each other, sources told the Post.
The Public Integrity Section has lagged in personnel and investigative firepower, veterans of the office say. Its work has produced acquittals and second-guessing from judges, which may intensify after the Stevens debacle. A federal jury in Puerto Rico last month resoundingly acquitted the commonwealth’s former Democratic governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila, of conspiracy and money laundering charges. Bradford Berenson, who worked on Vila’s defense team, said, “too often they are tempted to indict marginal or ambiguous cases, and that’s where they get into trouble, trying to present highly technical infractions to a jury.”