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Empire editorial: Turning a blind eye toward justice

Posted: April 8, 2012 - 12:08am

Last month there was a great deal of reporting state- and nation-wide on the imminent release of a 500-page document chronicling the extent of the prosecutorial misconduct perpetrated by Department of Justice prosecutors in the case of U.S. v. Theodore Stevens.

Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan had ordered an exhaustive investigation into the case and the outcome resulted in a statement by Judge Sullivan which sums up those 500 pages pretty succinctly: “The investigation and prosecution of Stevens were ‘permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated his defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness.’ At least some of the concealment was willful and intentional, and related to many of the issues raised by the defense during the course of the Stevens trial.”

On March 5th, the Wall Street Journal published an article “The 60th ObamaCare Vote” which contained a sub-heading that read: “A soon-to-be-released report shows how rogue prosecutors defeated Ted Stevens.” If the investigation findings and this WSJ headline doesn’t get the conspiracy theorists all a-quiver, we don’t know what would.

The WSJ article went on to extrapolate how the loss of Stevens to Mark Begich in the 2008 election changed the balance of power in the senate and ultimately the adoption of ObamaCare with now-Senator Begich having voted in favor. Shortly after it published, Begich visited with the Editorial Board of the Empire and was asked about the WSJ article’s assertion. Begich responded by deftly waiving it off as “people trying to rewrite history” and claimed “I was in a virtual dead-heat before Steven’s prosecution.” While Begich’s remarks may be argued, we believe its naïve to think a Stevens conviction on ethics charges two weeks before the election didn’t have the very real potential of giving Begich enough of a lift to defeat Stevens by a 47.8 percent to 46.5 percent margin, or 3,953 votes.

We aren’t going to belabor the result of the election but we certainly have grave concerns about how our legal system was abused in such a fashion as to change the national political landscape. The federal prosecutors involved were no flunkies who simply botched a case. These folks are skilled and educated and certainly experienced enough to know their actions were wrong. If justice isn’t blind, certainly the DOJ case oversight was.

Stevens had the financial resources to fight the charges against him and even those resources weren’t sufficient to defend against the prosecutorial abuses he encountered. Reform is needed to protect citizens against further such conduct.

There will be a brief rally on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday for those folks who support justice for the late Stevens. According to the organizer’s flyer, “this brief rally will allow Alaskans in the Capital City to voice their collective belief that steps must be taken to ensure that the gross miscarriage of justice which befell Senator Stevens does not afflict any other Americans now or in the future.”

The DOJ can’t be allowed to continue to turn a blind eye toward justice and we urge a strong turnout on Wednesday to drive this point home.

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