U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle indicated in a court hearing today she does not see a potential conflict of interest for Henry F. Schuelke III, the special prosecutor ordered by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to investigate the Justice Department’s handling of the Ted Stevens case.
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 lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ring’s lawyers raised the issue of Schuelke’s potential conflict before Judge Huvelle today, and whether Schuelke had informed Judge Sullivan of it.
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. Ring’s lawyers raised concerns that Schuelke could be called to testify in their case — which was supervised by the same DOJ lawyer Schuelke is also investigating for criminal contempt of court in the Stevens matter.
Huvelle told DOJ prosecutors Nathaniel B. Edmonds, Michael J. Leotta and Michael Ferrara, all of whom work for the Public Integrity Section and are supervised by Welch, that there should be a “wall” placed around Welch to ensure that he is no longer involved with the Ring case.
“That whole issue is so remote,” Huvelle said. “You should just clean it up.”
Huvelle also downplayed the question of what Schuelke told Sullivan. “There is no question [in] the idea that when Judge Sullivan asked him to [serve as special prosecutor] it would in anyway help or hurt you,” Huvelle said to Ring defense lawyers Richard Hibey, Andrew Wise and Timothy O’Toole.
Huvelle also ordered the DOJ to turn over all potentially exculpatory material to the Ring to the defense by May 15.
May 29 will be the final day Ring’s lawyers can file motions before the case proceeds to jury interviews.
Correction: Nathaniel B. Edmonds is a prosecutor in the DOJ Criminal Division and Michael J. Leotta is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.