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Ted Stevens' Prosecutors Won't Face Criminal Charges

Prosecutors who led the failed corruption case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens will not face criminal contempt charges after a lengthy investigation, two sources familiar with the case told NPR.

Attorney General Eric Holder abandoned the department's 2008 convictions of the Alaska Republican because of problems with evidence-sharing by the government. And U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who oversaw the trial, grew so upset with alleged lapses by the prosecutors that he ordered a separate criminal contempt investigation into their conduct.

Prominent Washington attorney Henry F. Schuelke has been interviewing the lawyers and collecting evidence for more than a year. Schuelke prepared a written report, but it won't recommend that any of the government lawyers be referred for criminal prosecution, the sources said.

Spokesmen for Schuelke and the Justice Department declined to comment when reached Monday by NPR.

The case shook the highest ranks of the Justice Department and prompted Holder and then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to impose new training requirements for prosecutors. The department continues to face challenges from public figures and business executives who claim those evidence-sharing changes don't go far enough.

Stevens died in August in an airplane crash, and one of the prosecutors, Nicholas Marsh, 37, committed suicide in September as the probe neared an end.

Separately, department ethics watchdogs at the Office of Professional Responsibility have completed their own report into alleged prosecutorial failings in the Stevens case. The OPR review took a broader look at problems among the trial team and supervisors.

But the two sources said OPR did not make misconduct findings against William Welch, who led the Justice Department's Public Integrity unit at the time of the trial, or his deputy, Brenda Morris, who joined the Stevens prosecution team only weeks before the trial.

Welch and Morris recently appealed to erase a civil contempt finding by Judge Sullivan. That proceeding is pending and could take some time to complete. Another government lawyer, Ed Sullivan, also emerged from the investigation without major trouble. Ed Sullivan took a back seat during the Stevens trial.

Other figures involved in the Stevens case could face referrals to their local bar associations, because misconduct findings by OPR automatically are forwarded to state disciplinary authorities, the sources said.

Marsh was not the subject of specific findings in the report. Alleged misconduct by two Alaska prosecutors, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, is described in the report, the sources said, as is FBI agent Mary Beth Kepner, who was the subject of a complaint by another FBI agent who portrayed himself as a whistleblower.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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