April 06, 2009
Throwing the Game

I need a little help from all you lawyers out there. In the coverage of the prosecutorial misconduct in ex-senator Ted Stevens’s trial, I haven’t seen a single mention of what seems to me at least a strong possibility.

Did the prosecutors from Bush’s Justice Department throw the case deliberately?

Consider the time line. The longest-serving Republican senator in history is facing corruption trial on charges so solid the chances of an acquittal were almost nonexistent. And at the same time, he’s up for reelection.

Normally the trial would have dragged on till the election was safely past, but unfortunately the charges were already public. Made public by whom? Why? Wouldn’t Rove’s sock puppets in the Justice Department simply have buried the whole matter?

Maybe they couldn’t. Maybe they knew somebody in the Alaska office would blow the whistle if a cover-up occurred. Was there such a somebody? We’ll get back to that.

Meanwhile, indulge me. Assume the prosecutors were afraid to deep-six the case for fear of being exposed. They make this known to Stevens. How can they possibly get him off the hook and back in the Senate so the Democrats won’t have a filibuster-proof majority?

The only thing they can come up with is for Stevens to ask for the trial to be speeded up so as to get it out of the way before the election. But that would only serve everybody’s purposes if the verdict were not guilty — and the evidence against him is overwhelming. Maybe that doesn’t matter, though.

Knowing that a guilty verdict (reached eight days before the election) was otherwise inevitable, mightn’t they have sabotaged their own case so that the judge would declare a mistrial — as he almost did on one occasion.

That would position the Republicans to argue that Stevens was an innocent man who deserves re-election — exactly the argument that they are in fact making today, now that Obama’s attorney general has moved to drop all charges.

Now let’s go back to why the case wasn’t just buried in the first place. Yes, there was a straight arrow on the prosecution side who was very likely to go public if the Bush Justice Department tried to bury the case. He is FBI agent Chad Joy, and he did indeed wind up filing a complaint against the FBI’s lead agent in the investigation.

I admit this sounds far-fetched, but then desperate times may have called for desperate measures. The thing that has puzzled me from the beginning is the blatant tactics of the prosecution. Time after time they seemed to be begging the judge to call them on their unconstitutional concealment of exculpatory evidence from the defense team.

And there wasn’t even any point to hiding that evidence: the charge was taking something of value in return for services rendered, not whether the renovation of Stevens’s chalet was only worth $80,000 rather than three times that. Either way Stevens is whoring out his office; how much he charges clients is legally irrelevant.

The only explanation for the prosecutors’ conduct that even vaguely makes sense to me is a calculated decision on their part to shoot themselves in the foot.

A big piece of the puzzle still missing — at least from any of the stories I’ve read — is the actual makeup of the prosecution team. The U.S. Attorney in Anchorage may be assumed to be a creature of Rove’s, but maybe not. The office seems to have been headed for the last couple of years by interim appointees. Career prosecutors, Bush hacks? Both? Were they vetted by the ineffable Monica Goodling?

If my idea is crazy or impossible, somebody explain to me what other explanation there could be. As Rachel Maddow says, talk me down.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at April 06, 2009 07:31 PM
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I'm no lawyer (though I do tell a FUNNY lawyer joke now and then), but even unsophisticated ME can see the touch of the Bush Gang here. GREAT POST - great blog! BTW, I wandered in from over at OUTTA THE CORNFIELD.

Posted by: Mr. Natural on April 6, 2009 10:55 PM

the same thought came to me when i first started hearing about problems with the prosecution.

not as well thought out as your thoughts here but essentially that they were trying to throw the case.

eight years of george bush has well and truly broken this country.

Posted by: karen marie on April 7, 2009 9:50 AM

Yes, of course the prosecution threw their case. Stevens is a Republican, and they'd rather not have had to prosecute him at all. Since they had no choice, they had to lose, but since the facts and evidence were clearly against him, they had to take a dive somehow.

Here's hoping the judge holds these prosecutors in criminal contempt.

Posted by: Mahakal on April 7, 2009 12:35 PM

I doubt that Stevens was tight enough with the in-crowd at the White House to merit this special treatment.

We have pushy, self-righteous prosecutors at the county level who hide exculpatory evidence and otherwise misbehave all the time, sometimes with police and police lab connivance, and they occasionally get caught. They're overeager to move up the political ladder to Congress or the Senate, a la Arlen Specter, e.g., and cut too many corners.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on April 8, 2009 11:48 PM
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