The public flogging of the Ted Stevens prosecution team has reached such a frenzy that you have to wonder what else is driving it now.
Without a doubt, “mistakes were made,” as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in his interview with CBS’s Katie Couric. Indeed.
The Senate’s longest serving Republican narrowly lost his re-election after his (now overturned) conviction last October, ending his career and putting Democrats within spitting distance of a filibuster-proof majority. The failure to turn over exculpatory evidence was inexcusable, and put the 84-year-old Stevens through a horrible and costly ordeal.
But here are five other factors to consider:
1) Emmet Sullivan’s ego. The mercurial federal judge has seemed to enjoy the spotlight. “I have not by any means pre-judged these attorneys for their culpability,” he said at last Tuesday’s hearing, in which he granted the DOJ’s motion to dismiss the indictment. But his repeated public scoldings of the prosecutors suggest otherwise. Marc Ambinder agrees.
2) Distrust of the Bush administration. The politicization of the Justice Department has cast a shadow over all its work.
3) Politics. Republicans can deflect attention from the abuses of the Bush administration by portraying the career prosecutors as Democrats out to get a Republican. Even though the Alaska Republican was indicted during a Republican administration, people are now primed to suspect a widespread lack of integrity in the justice system.
4) Race. Why was lead prosecutor Brenda Morris brought in only two months before trial? Thrown in at the last minute as the government rushed to prepare for a quicker-than-expected trial, it’s entirely plausible that she didn’t have a good handle on the material. Was a well respected prosecutor like Morris put in this position because she is black? Did her supervisors (Matt Friedrich and Rita Glavin) want an African-American face before a District of Columbia jury? If so, isn’t it perhaps time to get beyond such blunt racial considerations, especially given that the judge who was so critical of the government’s case is also African-American, as is the Attorney General who ultimately asked for its dismissal?
5) It’s great PR for the defense lawyers. No longer a potted plant, lead defense attorney Brendan Sullivan had a field day at last Tuesday’s court hearing, filleting the government in a 45-minute speech in which he denounced the prosecutors as “corrupt” and “devious.”