Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) said she is unsatisfied with the Justice Department’s conclusion that prosecutors did not engage in misconduct when they decided against criminally charging the star witness in the Ted Stevens prosecution with child sex crimes.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found no evidence of misconduct among department leadership in failing to charge Bill Allen, a wealthy oil services company owner and Stevens supporter, according to a letter to the Alaska Republican from Ronald Weich, the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs.
“OPR also found no evidence that the Criminal Division’s decision to decline prosecution of Mr. Allen was predicated on corrupt, improper or impermissible considerations,” Weich wrote in the letter sent Friday. “Indeed, the decision appears well within the legitimate exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”
The letter did not describe the reasons why Allen was not charged, prompting Murkowski to respond: ”There are many legitimate reasons that a case can be discontinued, but the more the Justice Department refuses to communicate their reasoning, the more they allow Alaskans to think the worst.”
“There remains a shadow over the Department of Justice’s operations in Alaska and nationwide — and only full transparency can begin to restore faith in the judicial system,” she said in a news release.
Allen was a key witness and testified at the trial of Stevens, who was charged with failing to reveal gifts on his financial disclosure forms. The central issue in the case was whether Stevens had illegally accepted $250,000 in home from Allen and his company, Veco. Stevens was convicted in 2008, and he lost re-election to the Senate. But the case was thrown out in 2009 after the Justice Department admitted to admitting to failing to hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense during trial.
Among the evidence that wasn’t handed over was an Anchorage Police Department file on sex abuse allegations against Allen, including allegations he’d asked a child prostitute to lie about their relationship – all of which could have cast doubt upon his character.
Police in Anchorage spent a few years investigating Allen on sex charges, including leads that he violated the Mann Act, which bars transporting minors across state lines for immoral purposes. The Justice Department chose not to move forward with any charges, and also directed Alaska authorities to drop the case. In an unrelated incident, Allen pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska lawmakers and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Murkowski has suggested in the past that Allen wasn’t charged with sex crimes because he was important to building the Justice Department’s case against Stevens, who was the longest serving member of the Senate at the time of his indictment.
Weich wrote in his letter that department officials are “vested with wide discretion in deciding whether to pursue criminal charges in a particular matter.”
He continued: “Accordingly, OPR does not investigate the legitimate exercise of prosecutorial distretion by department attorneys unless there is evidence that the deciding official’s discretion was exercised corruptly.”
Murkowski, who was family friends with the late Republican senator from Alaska, said she will continue to push for further information, including at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s June 6 hearing on the Stevens matter.
Last week, Congress released OPR’s report on its investigation of the prosecution team involved in the Stevens trial. OPR officials found that two Alaska Assistant U.S. Attorneys acted with “reckless professional misconduct” in failing to turn over evidence to Stevens’ defense team during trial. The late senator’s defense team has been highly critical of the department in the aftermath of the botched case, calling the AUSAs’ suspensions “laughable.”
OPR’s report different slightly from the findings of the court-appointed special prosecutor, who concluded that the AUSAs intentionally withheld the evidence.