By Mike Scarcella
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan suspended the trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens this morning, after it was revealed in court that prosecutors withheld FBI records that could have aided in Stevens’ defense. The senator’s lawyers at Williams & Connolly immediately called for Sullivan to dismiss the case.
The records in question showed that the government’s star witness, former VECO CEO Bill Allen, told federal investigators that he believed Stevens would have paid for the renovations he is accused of omitting on his financial disclosure forms if the senator had received the invoices. The government waited until last night to hand the records over, which Brenda Morris, the lead prosecutor, imputed to “human error.”
“It strikes me that this was probably intentional. I find it unbelievable that this was just an error,” Sullivan said.
At one point, lead defense attorney Brendan Sullivan turned to Morris and fumed, “Dismiss it!”
Morris conceded Stevens' lawyers should have gotten the records sooner but declined to say who on her team made the error. She said the omission had caused no harm because Allen was still on the stand. His testimony was scheduled to resume today before Judge Sullivan postponed the trial. Stevens' lawyers have not begun their cross-examination.
Sullivan scheduled a hearing at 4:30 p.m. to determine how to proceed. The judge ordered each side to file briefs on the issue before the afternoon hearing.