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Late Thursday the Justice Department announced it had asked a federal appeals court to return to the district court cases arising from the convictions of two Alaska state representatives, given concerns about serious misconduct by Bush-era prosecutors. The Department also said it was asking that the two politicians, state representative Victor Kohring and former speaker Peter Kott, be released from prison on their own recognizance. In a statement explaining the decision, Attorney General Eric Holder stated: “After a careful review of these cases, I have determined that it appears that the department did not provide information that should have been disclosed to the defense. When we make mistakes, it is our duty to admit and correct those mistakes.” Holder’s predecessor, Michael B. Mukasey, had failed to take any action on the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, even after the judge handling the Stevens case brought them to his attention.
The prosecution of Kohring and Kott was closely tied to the case against former Alaska senator Ted Stevens, involving some of the same witnesses and evidence as the Stevens case. It apparently grew out of the Stevens investigation. The Kohring and Kott prosecution was handled by the same team of Public Integrity Section lawyers who handled the Stevens case, including section chief William M. Welch II, Joseph Bottini, James Goeke, Nicholas Marsh, and Edward Sullivan. A special prosecutor has now been appointed to investigate the possibility of bringing criminal charges against the prosecutors over their misconduct.
Holder’s decision to seek release of the convicted lawmakers suggests a lack of confidence on his part that the convictions will ultimately stand. He has probably decided to fully acquaint the district court with the errors made in the trial before taking further action. The judge may conclude the evidence withheld was not material to the case or would not have affected the outcome, but Holder’s decision already suggests he believes otherwise. In that case, a new trial or a decision by the prosecution to vacate the convictions and abandon the case—as occurred in the Stevens case—may follow.
Many of the same Public Integrity prosecutors were also involved in the prosecution of Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman. In that case a prosecution witness has also leveled charges that prosecutors consciously withheld highly exculpatory evidence from the defense. As in the Stevens case, the prosecutors involved denied the charges.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Percentage of British citizens who say that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom:
In the United Kingdom, a penis-shaped Kentish strawberry was not made by snails.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”