Why would the Justice Department ever want to post defense exhibits on a government Web site for the world to see? The department wouldn’t, of course. Too much work, a prosecutor said in court today. Let the defense publish whatever they want on their Web site.
No, no. That won’t do either, a Williams & Connolly partner, Robert Cary, said in court today. The firm—representing Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens—doesn’t have the same resources available to the government to publish documents online day after day. And besides, Williams & Connolly doesn’t try cases in the press, Cary said.
But the firm apparently will allow the government work for the firm—for free. A federal judge today weighed in with a court order—yes, an order—demanding the government make room for trial exhibits the Justice Department would surely rather trash than publish for public inspection. On a government Web site, no less!
“I don’t think I’m overstepping my authority. There’s nationwide interest in this case,” Judge Emmet Sullivan of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said today. Sullivan said the court, itself, does not have the resources to post trial exhibits in the case on a Web site.
Prosecutor Edward Sullivan said the Justice Department would oblige the court. Precedent-setting? Perhaps. Although the department published trial exhibits online in the I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby case last year, defense documents notably did not share space on the DOJ page.
There are expected to be hundreds of government exhibits—in addition to audio recordings the government plans to publish to jurors. Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, is charged with seven counts of filing false financial disclosure forms. Prosecutors say Stevens concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and gifts from employees of VECO, the former Alaska-based oil services company.
The Williams & Connolly team won another small victory in court today when Judge Sullivan ruled that the defense is entitled to medical records documenting a head injury sustained by the government’s chief witness against Stevens—the former chairman of VECO, Bill Allen, who suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle crash.
Prosecutors say the injury has affected speech, not mental functioning. The Williams & Connolly team said in court recently that Allen is missing a quarter of his brain. Government lawyers cried foul: the injury, a prosecutor said, affected a part of Allen’s brain that is the size of a quarter.
Stevens was not in court today, and neither was Williams & Connolly lead attorney Brendan Sullivan Jr.—no relation to the judge or to the prosecutor. The chief prosecutor, Brenda Morris, principal deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section, also did not attend the pre-trial conference. The Stevens trial is set to begin Monday with jury selection. Seventy-five jurors will be called back Tuesday for individual questioning in court.