An indicted former associate of lobbyist Jack Abramoff intends to ask a judge next week whether Henry F. Schuelke III, the special prosecutor investigating the Justice Department’s handling of the Ted Stevens case, has a conflict of interest, a lawyer close to the discussions said.
Among the prosecutors Schuelke is investigating in the Stevens matter is William Welch II, head of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section. Welch also oversaw the indictment last September of former lobbyist Kevin Ring, who worked with Abramoff.
Among the charges against Ring is that he lied to an internal investigator hired by Abramoff’s former employer, the law firm Greenberg Traurig. That investigator was Schuelke.
That means Schuelke could be called to testify in a case that was supervised by the same DOJ lawyer Schuelke is also investigating for criminal contempt of court in the Stevens matter.
Lawyers for Ring wrote a letter to prosecutors on Monday asking whether they would continue to pursue two counts against Ring in which Schuelke could be called as a witness, said the lawyer familiar with the discussions. The prosecutors on the Ring case include Nathaniel B. Edmonds and Michael J. Leotta of the District of Maryland and Michael Ferrara of the Public Integrity Section.
A Justice Department spokeswoman, Laura Sweeney, said she could not comment on ongoing cases. Schuelke did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.
Ring’s lawyers asked the DOJ to explain Welch’s future role in the Ring case. They also asked for information on whether Schuelke intends to expand his investigation to examine Welch’s handling of other Public Integrity indictments, the lawyer familiar with discussions said.
At issue in the both the Stevens and Ring cases is the Public Integrity Section’s handling of potentially exculpatory material. Prosecutors are obligated under the Supreme Court’s Brady ruling to hand such material in their possession over to the defense.
The Justice Department earlier this month asked U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss an indictment against the former Alaska senator and void his conviction last October on seven corruption counts.
The request came after an internal DOJ investigation revealed prosecutors had not given the defense notes from a key witness interview. The notes contradicted the witness’s testimony in court and could have been used by the defense to undermine his credibility.
On April 7, Sullivan granted the government’s request to dismiss and capped a dramatic two-hour court hearing by announcing he’d appointed Schuelke to investigate six DOJ lawyers for possible criminal contempt of court.
The lawyers under investigation include Welch; Brenda Morris, the lead Stevens prosecutor and Welch’s deputy in the Public Integrity Section, two other Public Integrity trial attorneys and two Assistant U.S. Attorneys in Alaska.
Ring defense lawyers Richard Hibey, Andrew Wise, Matthew Reinhard and Timothy O’Toole filed a motion in January to dismiss Ring’s indictment. U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle didn’t grant the motion at a hearing last week. She ordered another hearing for Monday, at which Ring’s team intends to raise the issue of Schuelke’s dual roles. A trial is slated for September.
As in the Stevens case, Ring’s lawyers have been pressing the government to release potentially exculpatory material for his defense. In a hearing before Judge Huvelle last Monday, the government indicated it had done so already. But Ring’s team believes there could be more material releasable under Brady, including copies of FBI 302 interview summaries of likely witnesses in the case, the lawyer close to the discussions said.
In their letter to prosecutors Monday, Ring’s lawyers also asked whether the government disclosed to Judge Sullivan that Schuelke could be called as a witness in the Ring case.