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WASHINGTON - Attorney General Eric Holder held a series of private meetings with Justice Department attorneys Thursday to encourage them to keep aggressively pursuing public corruption despite the unraveling of the case against former Sen. Ted Stevens.
A Justice Department official said Holder spoke to lawyers in more than a dozen sections and offices at three different buildings. His message to the prosecutors: Assertively push fraud and corruption cases and don't feel you need to sit back because of criticism about problems with Stevens' trial and conviction.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday accepted Holder's request to throw out Stevens' conviction and dismiss all charges against the 85-year-old Alaska Republican because the government failed to provide certain evidence to his defense team.
Stevens, who had served 40 years in the Senate, lost his seat a few days after a jury found him guilty of corruption charges last fall.
Sullivan said he had never seen such mishandling of a case by prosecutors. He took the extraordinary step of opening an investigation into whether the Justice Department attorneys broke the law by withholding evidence.