Stevens Judge Demands Answers by Saturday

Posted January 16, 2009 at 12:56pm

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Friday admonished federal prosecutors in the trial of ex-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) after government attorneys erred in the courtroom by informing the judge that an FBI agent was denied whistle-blower protection when no such decision had been made, and then seeking to frame the incident as an unfortunate mistake. At a hearing earlier this week, Sullivan became enraged when prosecutors told him that FBI agent Chad Joy, who has alleged misconduct among the prosecution team, was denied whistle-blower protection. Assailing federal prosecutors for not sharing information about the decision earlier, Sullivan demanded that the department file by today a detailed description — signed by the attorney general — of who knew about the decision and how it was made. But late Thursday night, the department filed a motion asking Sullivan to retract his order for an explanation because the agent in question was never actually denied whistle-blower protection. Sullivan denied that request Friday afternoon, lambasting prosecutors for their explanation, and reissued his demand for a signed explanation by Saturday evening. “It is for these reasons, and because this incident is not the first one in this case where the government represents to the Court that it made a ‘mistake’ and that there was no ‘bad faith’ or intent to ‘mislead’ the Court or defense counsel in the face of serious allegations of government misconduct, that the Court has directed that a declaration be provided by the Attorney General,” Sullivan wrote. But Sullivan did amend his order slightly to allow either Attorney General Michael Mukasey or a designate to sign the document. “This case, and this most recent incident, involves numerous attorneys and offices throughout the Department of Justice. Those attorneys have not been able to provide a cohesive or credible answer to this Court’s questions regarding the determination of whistleblower status,” Sullivan wrote. “Therefore, the Court believes it is appropriate and necessary to get an answer from someone with direct oversight over all of the various offices, individuals and divisions involved.” Any designee to sign that letter, Sullivan added, must have oversight for numerous offices within the Justice Department, including the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Public Integrity Section and the FBI.