The investigation into how the Justice Department handled its prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens could end up having repercussions in another major corruption case.
Lawyers for one of jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff's former associates are seizing on the inquiry, claiming it has created conflicts of interest which could compromise their own client's chance at a fair trial.
Attorneys for Kevin Ring, who prosecutors claim played an integral role in the scheme to bribe lawmakers and their aides, filed a motion Friday asking District Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to either disqualify the Justice Department’s current team from the case, or bar one of its high profile witnesses.
The witness, Henry Schuelke III of Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler, was recently assigned to investigate whether the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section engaged in criminal misconduct during the leadup to Stevens' trial. One of the subjects of the investigation is public integrity chief William Welch, who is directly supervising the Justice lawyers handling Ring’s case.
Ring’s lawyers — a team from Miller & Chevalier including partners Richard Hibey, Andrew Wise and Timothy O’Toole — argue there is a danger Welch and his team will hold Schuelke to a lower standard on the stand in order to “curry favor” with him. Ring is charged with lying to Schuelke, who conducted an investigation into Abramoff’s activities on behalf of the lobbyist’s former firms.
“The prosecutors thus find themselves in a situation where one of their witnesses is invested with the power and authority to bring criminal chares against their leader (or in Mr. Welch’s case, himself),” they wrote. “This dynamic creates an undeniable appearance of impropriety.”
The defense motion suggests that prosecutors could use another lawyer from their witness list, William Shields, “whose knowledge of of material events likely duplicates Mr. Schuelke’s.”