U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dropped a bombshell at the end of today’s long hearing in which he granted the Department of Justice request to dismiss the incitment against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and void his conviction last October on seven corruption counts. Sullivan revealed his court has hired a special investigator, Henry F. Schuelke III, to probe whether the prosecution team broke federal rules of criminal procedure in withholding exculpatory evidence.
Sullivan said the prosecution errors were “too numerous to be left to an internal investigation that has no accountability.” He was referring to the DOJ’s Office of Professional Reponsibility investigation, already underway. DOJ lawyer Paul O’Brien, appointed in February to review the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, told Sullivan in today’s hearing that the department would share the OPR report with the court when it was completed. But O’Brien said he could not promise the DOJ would agree to release the findings publicly.
The attorneys now facing possible criminal charges include lead prosecutor Public Integrity Section chief William Welch; his deputy and the lead prosecutor, Brenda Morris; and Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan, trial attorneys in Public Integrity. Also under investigation are two Assistant U.S. Attorneys in Alaska, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke. You can read short bios of the prosecutors here.
Schuelke is a former Judge Advocate General and military judge in the U.S. Army. He served seven years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, and was special counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1980-81) and Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics (1989-1991). He is now in private practice at Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler in Washington. In a profile, the Anchorage Daily News describes Schuelke as “low-key.”