Complaint filed against government conduct in Stevens trial

Whistle-blower alleges prosecution withheld evidence

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2008

WASHINGTON - A federal employee with extensive knowledge of the investigation and corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens has filed a whistle-blower complaint alleging that the government intentionally withheld evidence and committed other misconduct.

Among the accusations were that the government intentionally "schemed to relocate a witness" and that an employee working on the investigation accepted artwork and employment for a relative from a cooperating source, according to a legal ruling issued late Friday night by the federal judge who presided over Stevens's trial.

The allegations echo long-running complaints raised by Stevens' defense team. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan chastised prosecutors several times for their handling of evidence and witnesses.

Stevens, who lost a re-election bid for a seventh full term, was convicted in October of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms to hide more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations to his Alaska house, most of which were funded by a defunct oil services company and its chief executive.

Sullivan did not reveal much about the whistle-blower in his 29-page ruling, which was a result of a secret clash between defense attorneys and prosecutors over whether to disclose the allegations. The accusations were made in what prosecutors described as a "self-styled whistle-blower complaint," apparently with the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, according to the ruling.

The whistle-blower apparently played a key role in the case. Sullivan described the person as being "significantly involved in the investigation and prosecution of the defendant."

Prosecutors filed sealed court documents alerting Sullivan to the complaint on Dec. 11, Sullivan wrote. They urged the judge to keep the complaint under seal and said the allegations did not involve law enforcement officers who testified and had no impact on the trial. Stevens' attorneys pushed to have the documents made public.

Sullivan ordered that a redacted version of the complaint be made public Monday afternoon because the allegations involve critical aspects of the investigation, trial and his rulings.

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