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Two Stevens Prosecutors Suspended for Brady Violations
By Jack King
NACDL News columns.
On May 24, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the only two disciplinary actions it has taken in the investigation of professional misconduct leading to the indictment and conviction of the late senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph W. Bottini, a lawyer with over 25 years of service, was suspended for 40 days without pay. AUSA James Goeke, an attorney with eight years of experience, received a 15-day suspension. A copy of Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich’s May 24 letter explaining the disciplinary actions is available at http://legaltimes.typepad.com/files/stevens2.pdf.
Specifically, the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) found that Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph W. Bottini:
- failed to disclose information provided by prosecution witness Bill Allen that was inconsistent with Allen’s later interviews and trial testimony, information that was clearly Brady material, and failed to correct Allen’s testimony at trial;
- failed to disclose information in the possession of the FBI and the IRS regarding Stevens’ willingness to repay VECO for the renovations; and
- failed to disclose information provided to the government by a VECO witness, Robert Williams, that he thought VECO’s costs would be added to the contractor’s invoices before the invoices were sent to Stevens.
Bipartisan legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate designed to prevent this kind of misconduct in the future, intentional or not. The bill was introduced on March 15 of this year, the same day as the release of the of the special prosecutor’s report on the wrongful prosecution of Stevens. Entitled the “Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act of 2012,” the bill’s lead sponsors are Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii). (A link to the legislation can be found on NACDL’s website at www.nacdl.org/discoveryreform.)
As NACDL President Lisa Monet Wayne explained the day the Stevens report was released and this important legislation was introduced, “The duty to provide favorable evidence has often been misunderstood or ignored. Even well-intentioned prosecutors lack the clear statutory guidance necessary to ensure the full and prompt disclosure to the defense of favorable evidence. That lack of disclosure contributes to unjust and wrongful prosecutions and convictions. This legislation fixes that problem.” President Wayne added that “the ‘Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act of 2012’ provides clear and meaningful standards governing the prosecution’s duty to disclose any and all evidence that could help the accused defend her case. Its passage would represent a giant step forward in improving the fairness and accuracy of our criminal justice system.”
In addition to NACDL, this legislation is supported by the American Bar Association (ABA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Constitution Project, and the Institute for Legal Reform at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
NACDL has worked for years seeking sensible discovery reform in the context of criminal prosecutions. A link to NACDL’s video, “America Needs Sensible Discovery Reform,” as well as a wealth of materials on the subject, can be found at www.nacdl.org/discoveryreform.