Updated 4:03 p.m.
Defense attorneys for Ted Stevens, the late Alaska senator, ripped prosecutors in the case during a press conference this afternoon, calling their actions the worst prosecutorial misconduct in a generation.
Williams & Connolly partners Brendan Sullivan Jr. and Robert Cary spoke for about 30 minutes before answering questions on a report released Thursday by special prosecutor Henry "Hank" Schuelke III. The report, which concluded that prosecutors had committed misconduct, did not recommend criminal contempt charges.
“The extent of the corruption is shocking,” Sullivan said. “It’s the worst misconduct we’ve seen in a generation by prosecutors at the Department of Justice and by the FBI. Some of the prosecutors in the Stevens case disregarded case law from the Supreme Court and disregarded their ethical obligations as they were hell-bent to get a sitting senator.”
Sullivan spoke about how the government knowingly presented false testimony on the part of its primary witness, introduced false business records, and hid evidence that its star witness was a sexual predator.
Bill Allen, the government’s key witness, lied about his testimony and the government hid evidence from the defense showing that Allen was lying. And while the Department of Justice has implemented new training and new manuals since the trial ended, Cary said the policies don’t go far enough. He said that the policies are not made available to defense attorneys.
“We are simply relying on their word,” Cary said. “Far too often their word is wrong and they haven’t complied with the Brady obligations.”
Sullivan added that DOJ should embrace changes to rules on disclosure of evidence to clarify the standard. “To me it’s inconsistent with what people should be doing who have responsibility for ensuring that justice is done to every citizen,” he said.
Sullivan said that the firm didn’t recoup any money associated with lawyer’s fees because “there is no viable remedy available to someone like Senator Stevens to collect fees. Very few individuals can afford the kind of a fight that has to be undertaken for an individual, especially one that is targeted by prosecutors who don’t follow the law,” he said.
While the majority of DOJ prosecutors are honest and ethical, Sullivan said, he finds the frequency of the conduct frightening. "It’s not isolated, but I can’t say that it’s widespread,” he said. “We sometimes have prosecutors that are zealous and they act in a thuggish way to do what they think has to be done.”
“If those who have the greatest power in America to bring charges and to present cases in court, if they don’t follow the law then none of us are safe,” Sullivan said. “If this can happen to a United States Senator…then it can happen to anybody, anywhere."
Amid his criticism of prosecutors, Sullivan praised U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, whom he said has “wonderful intuition” and “good instinct.”
“Most judges would have rushed to sentence, and we would have never found the wrongdoing,” Sullivan said. “The judge did everything he possibly could."
Photo by The National Law Journal's Diego M. Radzinschi.