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Looking for justice in Justice Dept.

April 7, 2009
The Daily Mining Gazette

There is no way to put a good "spin" on what happened in regard to corruption allegations against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. Heads should roll in the Justice Department as a result of its bungling of the case.

Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the Senate and known as one of the most effective men in Congress at steering federal money to his state, was convicted last fall of seven felony counts involving alleged corruption in office. Prosecutors said he had accepted about $250,000 in gifts improperly.

Last Wednesday the Justice Department asked that a federal court dismiss the conviction.

Attorney General Eric Holder explained in a written statement that federal prosecutors withheld from defense attorneys certain information that might have helped Stevens. That is a very serious offense. In such cases, judges have few options other than to reverse convictions - simply because not all the evidence was heard during trials.

Stevens, 85, lost his re-election bid last fall. It is quite likely that the corruption conviction swayed the extremely close election.

There are just two possibilities in the case: Either a corrupt politician is escaping punishment because of prosecutors' illegal zeal - or the government illegally persecuted a public servant. Some pundits say he's getting off on a technicality, while others find justice was finally served. We may never know the full truth about allegations against Stevens.

As soon as Holder learns which Justice Department officials were involved in the fiasco, they should be fired. In addition, Holder should consider whether charges should be brought against them. They have done an enormous disservice not just to Alaskans, but to all Americans - who now have another reason to question whether the Justice Department is ruled by politics.



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