The Public Integrity Section has taken plenty of lumps from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan over the course of the case of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted of corruption charges in October. By the looks of these court pleadings filed today, it can expect a few more.
In an attached letter dated Jan. 30, the section's director, William Welch II, told the judge he “deeply regrets the drain on the court’s resources and loss of credibility in the court’s eyes.”
Why the apology? Two things.
First: In a court hearing last month, Welch mistakenly told the judge that an FBI agent did not qualify for “whistleblower status.” The agent, Chad Joy, has filed a complaint alleging that the Stevens prosecutors schemed to relocate a witness and attempted to conceal exculpatory evidence. He’s also accused another agent of having an inappropriate relationship with the government’s chief witness in the case. (Stevens’ lawyers at Williams & Connolly allege it was sexual in nature.) Welch actually meant that Joy was not yet entitled to protections as an “aggrieved whistleblower” because the agent has not alleged any reprisal or retaliation, according the government's filing.
The second mistake is more glaring. At the same hearing, Welch told Sullivan that the Anchorage-based government employees named in Joy’s complaint “prefer their identities to be known and that essentially they want their story made public." As a result, an unredacted version of the complaint was made available to the public.
Apparently, some of those employees didn’t want their names disclosed. Welch said in the letter that he and Brenda Morris, his principal deputy and the lead prosecutor in the case, instructed D.C.-based FBI agents to interview Anchorage personnel named in the complaint and explain to them that their interviews would be converted into public affidavits. But some of the employees “believe that the above described notice was not sufficient to infer or conclude that they had consented to disclosure of their names in the Joy complaint,” Welch said.
Welch ended the letter, “I apologize to the court if I misled the court in any way, and certainly did not intend to do so. I believed my representation to the court to be accurate at the time based on the above described facts. I deeply regret any error, particularly in light of the fact that this is my first appearance before this court.”
So much for first impressions.