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Conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens Is Thrown Out

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the up-from-down-the-tubes dept.

The Courts 440

A federal judge has thrown out the conviction of the senator who educated us all about the true nature of the Internet. Ted Stevens had been convicted last fall of lying about free home renovations that he received from an oil contractor, 8 days before he lost his Senate re-election bid. The judge blasted the US Department of Justice prosecutors for mishandling the case in ways that might rise to the level of criminality. "In 25 years on the bench, I have never seen anything approach the mishandling and misconduct in this case," Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said. He called the allegations "shocking and disturbing." According to the article, "Several jurors have told The Washington Post that the evidence against Stevens was overwhelming during a month-long trial that ended in October."

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440 comments

Still Sounds Guilty to Me (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 5 years ago | (#27492953)

Much of the hearing today focused on what transpired during an April 15, 2008, interview with the key witness, Bill Allen. During that interview, according to notes taken by two of the prosecutors, Allen said he did not recall talking to a friend of Stevens's about sending the senator a bill for work on his home, according to Sullivan.

Under oath at trial, however, Allen testified that he was told by the friend to ignore a note Stevens sent seeking a bill for the remodeling work.

"Bill, don't worry about getting a bill" for Stevens, Allen said the friend told him. "Ted is just covering his [expletive]."

Ok, so we have Ted Stevens asking for a bill on the remodeling, like he should. But it sounds like one was never received or produced. So what was Stevens convicted of?

After a month-long trial, Stevens was convicted of not reporting on Senate disclosure forms that he accepted about $250,000 in gifts and free renovations to his home in Girdwood, Alaska. Most of the gifts and free remodeling work were supplied by Bill Allen, chief executive of Veco, a now-defunct oil services company.

Ok, regardless of whether or not an invoice was ever produced, the Senate is required to report things like this on their financial disclosure forms [senate.gov] so that under the table payments can be discovered. It still sounds like he's guilty for failing to put "I just got these bitching additions to my house from this contractor for $0." Which should spark an investigation.

My point is whether they find him guilty or not, he failed his duties as a senator. It's a shame the prosecution botched this case and withheld that evidence from the court as he's still guilty of failing to disclose this information publicly on his financial disclosure form.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (5, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 5 years ago | (#27493025)

Much of the hearing today focused on what transpired during an April 15, 2008, interview with the key witness, Bill Allen. During that interview, according to notes taken by two of the prosecutors, Allen said he did not recall talking to a friend of Stevens's about sending the senator a bill for work on his home, according to Sullivan.

Under oath at trial, however, Allen testified that he was told by the friend to ignore a note Stevens sent seeking a bill for the remodeling work.

"Bill, don't worry about getting a bill" for Stevens, Allen said the friend told him. "Ted is just covering his [expletive]."

Ok, so we have Ted Stevens asking for a bill on the remodeling, like he should. But it sounds like one was never received or produced. So what was Stevens convicted of?

After a month-long trial, Stevens was convicted of not reporting on Senate disclosure forms that he accepted about $250,000 in gifts and free renovations to his home in Girdwood, Alaska. Most of the gifts and free remodeling work were supplied by Bill Allen, chief executive of Veco, a now-defunct oil services company.

Ok, regardless of whether or not an invoice was ever produced, the Senate is required to report things like this on their financial disclosure forms [senate.gov] so that under the table payments can be discovered. It still sounds like he's guilty for failing to put "I just got these bitching additions to my house from this contractor for $0." Which should spark an investigation.

My point is whether they find him guilty or not, he failed his duties as a senator. It's a shame the prosecution botched this case and withheld that evidence from the court as he's still guilty of failing to disclose this information publicly on his financial disclosure form.

If it weren't the procedural flaws in the prosecution's case it would have likely been something else getting the conviction overturned. Stevens is way too wealthy and politically connected to be punished for any crime.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 5 years ago | (#27493193)

Stevens is way too wealthy and politically connected to be punished for any crime.

Believe it or not, I don't believe those played a factor in the DOJ dropping the case. Apparently, Holder felt it more important to punish the prosecution on this one than nail Senator Tubes. Some of the factors claimed to play into his decision were the facts that Stevens is 85 (unlikely to be able to serve much jail time), no longer a sitting Senator, and that any movement forward on this case would be tainted.

As for whether or not he's innocent or not is irrelevant at this point. He never got a fair trial. And without a fair trial, the justice system cannot prove something one way or another. He'll probably be remembered by the public as a guilty bastard, and never manage anything else for the remainder of his life. He's permanently retired now, which is the worst part that would have come from the conviction. Not the fine or the trip to Club Fed.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#27493325)

That's the way the system works. Sort of like the first Simpson trial. The LAPD definitely engaged in tactics that were unethical to say the least and he got off the hook largely because of that. Was he actually guilty? I don't think we'll ever know, but there was definitely manufactured evidence that tainted things enough to get him off.

It's a shame in a sense because he wasn't really cleared in the mind of the public and he didn't serve time either. But that's what we've got.

I suspect that's what Stevens is going to be getting as well. No prison, but uncleanably tainted reputation.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

MBCook (132727) | about 5 years ago | (#27493635)

Was he actually guilty? I don't think we'll ever know[...]

I think we all know.

Events in the last few years have only made it look more likely.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 5 years ago | (#27493883)

The OJ trials reached the correct results - the police framed him, so they don't get to throw him in jail, but he really did kill her, so the civil court awarded wergild to her family. On the other hand, he tried to trick his way out of paying, so that bizarre robbery trial seemed like just deserts.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (5, Funny)

Kozz (7764) | about 5 years ago | (#27493891)

Coming soon to a bookstore near you: If I Renovated It, Here's How It Happened.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | about 5 years ago | (#27493413)

Who knows if it is over. Everyone's favorite governor, the esteemed Governor Sarah Palin, requested current sitting Senator Begich to resign so that a special election can occur (Palin Calls for Begich's Resignation [politico.com]). Some conspiracy might befall Sen. Begich, heads will roll, and all hail the new Sen. Stevens.

not necessarily retired (1)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | about 5 years ago | (#27493543)

Stevens is not necessarily retired: Palin, Republicans call for special Senate election [adn.com].

He could still be re-elected if Palin and the Republicans get their way. It would be a good thing too, my tubes were just again becoming clogged by too many internets. I keep trying to fix it myself, but I think my problem might be that I'm thinking of the internet as a big truck and that's just not right. It's not a big truck -- I really wish some helpful senator would come fix it for me. No! [youtube.com]

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 5 years ago | (#27493677)

Apparently, Holder felt it more important to punish the prosecution on this one than nail Senator Tubes.

Then he should have charged them with obstruction of justice.

Some of the factors claimed to play into his decision were the facts that Stevens is 85 (unlikely to be able to serve much jail time)

Anything is better than nothing. Stevens spending the rest of his life rotting in a cell would have provided a pretty good deterrent to other corrupt Senators. Now, all they need is a buddy in the DOJ who can withhold a little evidence and get off scott free.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 5 years ago | (#27493701)

Apparently, Holder felt it more important to punish the prosecution on this one than nail Senator Tubes.

I think that this is far more important than a conviction for Stevens. Prosecutors all over the country need to know that they cannot get away with such things. While the judges should and do stop such things when they're seen, there is also an important point to the Justice Department performing some self-policing so that the judges don't have to find it, because when a judge finds it in one case, it potentially taints the convictions of other defendants who have been tried by anyone involved on the prosecution side of that case.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

fulldecent (598482) | about 5 years ago | (#27493721)

Wait... so you're telling me that the executive branch acted in such a way as to allow a member of the legislative branch to walk away without prosecution??

Inconceivable!!!

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 5 years ago | (#27493865)

Stevens is way too wealthy and politically connected to be punished for any crime.

Believe it or not, I don't believe those played a factor in the DOJ dropping the case. Apparently, Holder felt it more important to punish the prosecution on this one than nail Senator Tubes. Some of the factors claimed to play into his decision were the facts that Stevens is 85 (unlikely to be able to serve much jail time), no longer a sitting Senator, and that any movement forward on this case would be tainted.

As for whether or not he's innocent or not is irrelevant at this point. He never got a fair trial. And without a fair trial, the justice system cannot prove something one way or another. He'll probably be remembered by the public as a guilty bastard, and never manage anything else for the remainder of his life. He's permanently retired now, which is the worst part that would have come from the conviction. Not the fine or the trip to Club Fed.

Oh, I believe it. Clearly the prosecution was incredibly sloppy an unethical in this case. However, were they perfect lawyers following the letter of the law, something else would have popped up to get Stevens off the hook.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 5 years ago | (#27493977)

Stevens is way too wealthy and politically connected to be punished for any crime.

Believe it or not, I don't believe those played a factor in the DOJ dropping the case. Apparently, Holder felt it more important to punish the prosecution on this one than nail Senator Tubes. Some of the factors claimed to play into his decision were the facts that Stevens is 85 (unlikely to be able to serve much jail time), no longer a sitting Senator, and that any movement forward on this case would be tainted.

As for whether or not he's innocent or not is irrelevant at this point. He never got a fair trial. And without a fair trial, the justice system cannot prove something one way or another. He'll probably be remembered by the public as a guilty bastard, and never manage anything else for the remainder of his life. He's permanently retired now, which is the worst part that would have come from the conviction. Not the fine or the trip to Club Fed.

"Punish the prosecution" my ass. He's spinning it sound like he's doing Stevens a favor (and you bought his BS hook, line, and sinker, I see).

The fact of the matter is, this was a railroad job done by a bunch of criminal attorneys, and Holder is trying to protect them. Pursuing this case means putting more scrutiny on those prosecutors, which will likely end up in criminal charges against them.

the problem was VECO (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about 5 years ago | (#27493983)

Most of the disputed "gift" expenses concern oilfield promoter-contractor VECO Corp and Bill Allen trying to curry favor and a false image as an efficient, low cost contractor on Stevens' house. VECO's bad planning and futzing around probably doubled VECO/Allen's out of pocket costs for rennovation, where Stevens paid approximately what the result was actually worth.

I am an Anchorage home owner with as much rennovation, a lot of oil suits hate me, and I have repeatedly voted against that old coot but this was a "people's court" lynching.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (5, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | about 5 years ago | (#27493091)

While I agree with most of your points, I think it's safe to say that the jury's verdict has definitely gone down the tubes.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1, Redundant)

Sabathius (566108) | about 5 years ago | (#27493505)

Hey, man, the jury is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493723)

Big truck? I dunno. Did you see the picture of Juror #5? 450+ pounds and wearing a Nascar cap. I bet that's what they call him over at Mel's Diner when he steps off his rig for lunch.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 5 years ago | (#27493381)

To some extent though, his guilty verdict was a political death sentence. I just hope that he considers himself too old to run again or become a political commentator. I'm glad that prosecutorial misconduct is not tolerated, even if it means that something that is quite patently fishy (non-disclosure is a matter of fact, not law) is not prosecuted.

In the end, this could be a win-win situation: a senator with some fishy payment issues is removed, and bad prosecutors get smacked down. Not how I would like to see it happen, but I can live with it.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (0, Troll)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 5 years ago | (#27493593)

In the end, this could be a win-win situation: a senator with some fishy payment issues is removed, and bad prosecutors get smacked down. Not how I would like to see it happen, but I can live with it.

The problem is, it has far further reaching effects than this. Sen. Tubes narrowly lost his re-election and probably would have won if it weren't for the guilty verdict. Now the Democrats are dangerously close to having cloture power in the senate. I find the specter of the White House & both chambers of Congress being run by Democrats without giving their opposition any form of checks and balances a little scary. Of course, that doesn't mean I'd like to see somebody get off just because of the political consequences. The sad thing is I wonder why the prosecutors didn't simply follow due process to begin with, when it sounds like they still would have had enough to pin on him?

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493427)

I would be interested in knowing more about the prosecutors. Who appointed them, what is their political affiliation, and campaign contributions (if any).

The fact that this was pushed right before an election, combined with the misconduct seems like someone wanted this pretty badly, and wanted it now (think 60 seats in the Senate).

Certainly would be Pulitzer worthy, if true. But we all know that the press only investigates "one way".

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493541)

Bush didn't clear house in the DoJ like previous Presidents had in an attempt for both sides to get along. Most of the prosecutors on this case were leftovers from Clinton.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about 5 years ago | (#27493485)

Don't you think this was intentional? It's not the first time a prosecution was botched so that the defendant could get off.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | about 5 years ago | (#27493581)

"My point is whether they find him guilty or not, he failed his duties as a senator. It's a shame the prosecution botched this case and withheld that evidence from the court as he's still guilty of failing to disclose this information publicly on his financial disclosure form."

The court system takes time, it's not just something you can dump something on.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | about 5 years ago | (#27493623)

You know, I'm just a lowly member of the unwashed masses, not one of the oligarchical leaders who are above the "law" and all, but when a contractor does major remodeling work for me and never bills me for it--I tend to notice it. Now maybe Ted has people who handle his bills for him (again, not lowering himself to our filthy level), but I find it hard to believe that his people just forgot about a major renovation.

I also doubt that the contractor just forgot to send the bill. Most contractors I know don't do that either. Maybe it was one of those magic contractors that doesn't charge for their services.

I don't buy for a second that this was anything less than what it appears to be--a wink/wink, nudge/nudge kind of situation where a contractor (or person behind the contractor) was bribing the good senator in hopes (nay, in EXPECTATION) of a little favoritism when Alaska's earmark windfalls were divided up. I don't care how good Steven's lawyers are--this looks, quacks, and waddles just like a duck and that indicates a duck to me.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (2, Interesting)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | about 5 years ago | (#27493679)

Wait a minute. If I ask you for the bill or invoice on work you did for me and did not produce it, I am still waiting for it, why is this a gift? I am still waiting for the bill so I can pay it.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about 5 years ago | (#27493787)

It's a shame the prosecution botched this case

My conspiracy theory is that the Bush Justice Department picked a prosecuter they were pretty sure would botch the case.

Re:Still Sounds Guilty to Me (1)

AK Dave (1459433) | about 5 years ago | (#27493851)

Essentially, he was found guilty of not reporting the $250K gift of home remodelling. Which he hadn't been billed for, and which was not supposed to be a gift because he expected to be billed and pay the bill, and had in fact received AND PAID interim bills for services. There may have been some botched paperwork from Stevens' office, but not to the level presented by the prosecution, and the majority of it was tainted by Bill Allen's dirty fingers.

Is He Guilty (4, Interesting)

socalmtb (235850) | about 5 years ago | (#27492963)

What is annoying here is this doesn't mean he isn't guilty - it's just that the prosecutors really messed up.

Re:Is He Guilty (3, Interesting)

tchdab1 (164848) | about 5 years ago | (#27493283)

Right - the prosecution is required by law to share all the evidence it has with the defense. It's called disclosure. Watch the movie "My Cousin Vinnie" for an explanation.
Because the prosecution withheld evidence important from the defense, that is enough to throw out the charges. Doesn't matter if it's post-conviction.
Legally Ted "inter-tubes" Stevens is no longer guilty, and he will shout that to the world from now on.

And governor Palin cries for a re-election for Steven's former senate seat, to address the wrongdoing. I wonder if she also supports freeing Aymen Batarfi, a gitmo detainee from whose defense the government also withheld substantial evidence. Maybe she'll grant him asylum in Alaska.

Re:Is He Guilty (5, Interesting)

bradgoodman (964302) | about 5 years ago | (#27493585)

No - Because the prosecution withheld evidence, that should be grounds for the defense to appeal for a new trial in which that evidence may be suppressed - or maybe not even suppressed, now that the defense does know about it.

To set aside the whole verdict - man, that takes some real stones.

It's also frustrating how little about the specifics that are even revealed in the press. There's got to be a much bigger story in all this.

Re:Is He Guilty (3, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#27493945)

It's called disclosure. Watch the movie "My Cousin Vinnie" for an explanation.

You don't need an excuse to watch that movie, it's great by itself!

Re:Is He Guilty (5, Insightful)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | about 5 years ago | (#27493441)

Au contraire! The exact opposite is true. Sen. Stevens is not (legally) guilty. What you meant to say is that "this doesn't mean he didn't do anything wrong." Our court system still stands on the belief of innocence until proven guilt. His guilt was not proven, so he is innocent.

He might have done no wrong too; we don't know. We don't have all the facts and can't say for sure (or at least beyond reasonable doubt) that he is guilty so, according to our legal system, he is innocent

I'm not defending Sen. Stevens but I am defending our legal system. For all its flaws (there are many), it is the best legal system in the world. Maybe that's not saying much but for the most part, it works.

Re:Is He Guilty (1)

huckamania (533052) | about 5 years ago | (#27493687)

Just like all of these nominees that didn't pay their taxes, the real question is whether they did it intentionally or whether it was a simple mistake. From the withheld evidence, it appears to be the latter.

He's a Republican. Which means it's okay to violate his rights to a fair trial. Just like all of the 'Hang Them' comments concerning Bush and Cheney.

Re:Is He Guilty (1)

zxnos (813588) | about 5 years ago | (#27493777)

what is really annoying here is that there are people in the legal system who think they don't have to follow the rules. chilling.

Intentional prosecutorial misconduct? (1)

bersl2 (689221) | about 5 years ago | (#27492981)

It wouldn't surprise me.

(No I did not RTFA. How did you know?!)

Misconduct by *Republican* Prosecutors (2, Interesting)

billstewart (78916) | about 5 years ago | (#27493819)

As the Liberal Media [wikipedia.org] have been pointing out, the prosecutors here were the corrupt and politically biased Bush Administration Justice Department, which was led by the corrupt Alberto Gonzalez, who Stevens had voted to confirm a few years before. So if there was intentional misconduct, well, nyahh nyahh.

Of course, if there was prosecutorial misconduct, and they have to drop those charges, chances are good that they've blown their Double Jeopardy roll and can't try him again and can't throw the old man in jail.

But that doesn't mean Stevens wasn't corrupt enough to deserve not to get re-elected, even though the Republicans are now trying to pretend that since they're the minority party, they should get a do-over on the election.

Nigger President (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27492993)

Leave it to a nigger to take it easy on a convicted criminal.

YRO? Seriously? (5, Insightful)

WED Fan (911325) | about 5 years ago | (#27492995)

Why is this YRO?

Now, the process that have freed this sleeze-ball are also the processes that help in preventing the innocent from being railroaded. I'd rather free an occasional sleeze than see a lot of innocents convicted unjustly.

Re:YRO? Seriously? (0)

Cube Steak (1520237) | about 5 years ago | (#27493055)

Why is this YRO?

Because kdawson is a moron? I'm also still trying to figure out what relevance this has to "news for nerds" other than the "series of tubes" link since this is about Ted Stevens.

Re:YRO? Seriously? (2)

palegray.net (1195047) | about 5 years ago | (#27493293)

The tubes are the only link. That said, the Slashdot community greatly enjoys poking fun at technically inept public officials who attempt to claim advanced knowledge of technical fields. Slashdotters also love jabbing at corrupt politicians, especially when said pols fit the first category as well. I enjoyed every bit of news on Stevens I could get.

Re:YRO? Seriously? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 5 years ago | (#27493437)

well, it was news (not for nerds) two weeks ago. This must be "stuff that matters (if you're Ted Stevens)" or perhaps "idle."

Re:YRO? Seriously? (0, Offtopic)

Dynedain (141758) | about 5 years ago | (#27493349)

Because someone checked the YRO box when submitting and the editors didn't remove it.

Re:YRO? Seriously? (5, Insightful)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | about 5 years ago | (#27493707)

Why is this YRO?

Because Stevens was represented by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williams_%26_Connolly [wikipedia.org], who are the firm in DC for this sort of thing. Even with the absolute best lawyers money can buy, the prosecution still stepped all over his basic right to a fair trial. That makes me wonder how the DOJ treats regular defendants that haven't retained the best law firm in the beltway.

This is YRO (well, YR) because if the rich and powerful (and almost certainly corrupt, although it seems that he might not have been corrupt in the manner charged) cannot get a fair trial, then it's pretty damned clear than no one can.

This is bullshit (5, Interesting)

linzeal (197905) | about 5 years ago | (#27493001)

Procedural mistakes should not overturn convictions that are this overwhelming. The practice of law used to require one book, when we found this nation maybe a 100 now there are 10's of thousands of books involving the law in various aspects and it has gotten to be too much. We need to reboot the justice department by rewriting the laws so they are prudent, consistent and concise.

Re:This is bullshit (5, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 5 years ago | (#27493097)

I disagree. His reputation is shredded. He's 80+ years old. Seems like a fair trade to me.

The 'mistakes' by the prosecutors were pretty egregious. Overturning the verdict is reasonable in this situation. As is not retrying him based on his age and being out of the Senate.

It's not technically 'justice', but in the end it seems like a fair compromise.

Re:This is bullshit (5, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | about 5 years ago | (#27493743)

disagree. His reputation is shredded. He's 80+ years old. Seems like a fair trade to me.

The 'mistakes' by the prosecutors were pretty egregious. Overturning the verdict is reasonable in this situation. As is not retrying him based on his age and being out of the Senate.

It's not technically 'justice', but in the end it seems like a fair compromise

He's 80 years old, was extremely powerful a year ago, glaringly corrupt, and the GOP is trying to get him reinstated. Political corruption charges are perhaps the most dangerous type of charges to throw out on technicalities. The fact that one man (the judge) can overturn the jury of his peers on the basis that the lawyers who got him convicted did it wrong is proof that it takes only 2 corrupt men in a room full of people to get away with anything (and I'm sure your imagination has not yet stretched around what the word anything encompasses when it comes to corrupt men in federal power). If the people who paid Stevens money pay the judge or the prosecution enough money to "screw a few things up" then no politician can ever be imprisoned for corruption charges as long as that dynasty stands. This is the type of thing that will affect you extremely negatively in the near future. Perhaps you should bother yourself with looking past a man's age before letting a corrupt potentate return to power.

Re:This is bullshit (5, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about 5 years ago | (#27493877)

Overturning the verdict is reasonable in this situation.

Agreed.

As is not retrying him based on his age and being out of the Senate.

Now this, I can't agree on. People deserve an opportunity to clear their name through a re-trial, no matter what the age or circumstances. And the public deserves to see that Justitia really is blind, and don't let who you are and what you do (or no longer do) give you advantages over the next man.

I think the only reasonable is that when a case gets overturned, a mandatory retrial takes place. As long as there is an opportunity, however small or convoluted, for people to cheat the system by having a case thrown out, that loophole will be exploited. By those with the power to exploit it.

Protection (1)

WED Fan (911325) | about 5 years ago | (#27493129)

See my comment [slashdot.org] to see that these processes and procedures are in place to protect the innocent from being railroaded, harassed, and driven into debt unjustly. The types of abuses that occured before in the U.S. and occur in other countries to this day.

It does mean that the occassional sleeze bucket goes free, murderous teens get out after a few months, and scum balls can make deals. But, it is there so you don't thrown in jail by the local La Costa Nostra-wannabe Sheriff with a grudge.

Re:This is bullshit (2, Insightful)

kalirion (728907) | about 5 years ago | (#27493143)

Procedural mistakes should not overturn convictions that are this overwhelming.

How are you going to judge what is overwhelming and what isn't? It is far more in societies interest that prosecutors and cops start going by the book, even if it means some potentially guilty parties go free.

The practice of law used to require one book, when we found this nation maybe a 100 now there are 10's of thousands of books involving the law in various aspects and it has gotten to be too much. We need to reboot the justice department by rewriting the laws so they are prudent, consistent and concise.

I agree with you there. But if you RTFA you'll see that it wasn't a simple mistake of ignorance of some obscure passage in a book. These were basic rules that the prosecutors broke.

Re:This is bullshit (5, Informative)

stonecypher (118140) | about 5 years ago | (#27493191)

The practice of law used to require one book, when we found this nation maybe a 100

This is complete fiction. The Shakers took years to produce our legal system, and produced nearly a thousand books to describe it. At no point has the legal system you described existed in this nation.

Stop making points by making up stories.

Common Law (4, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#27493221)

Yeah, considering that our legal system is a Common Law system, and that it inherited from British Common Law with all it's many-centuries history, it's ridiculous to think that legal practice was ever simple enough to be contained in only a hundred books, much less one.

Re:Common Law (2, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#27493385)

That's not technically correct, while most of the US is indeed common law, with the exception of LA which uses Napoleonic code to this day.

Re:This is bullshit (2, Insightful)

Cube Steak (1520237) | about 5 years ago | (#27493239)

Procedural mistakes should not overturn convictions that are this overwhelming.

Exactly. Due process has no place in getting in the way of a prosecutor winning a case by lying, manipulating evidence and harassing witnesses.

Re:This is bullshit (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 5 years ago | (#27493303)

This isn't some nit-picking technical error, though. One of the prosecution's main witnesses contradicted his trial testimony in a recorded interview, which the prosecution deliberately withheld from the defense.

Stevens is almost certainly still guilty, but I don't think you can now say that he was convicted at a fair trial, which is why if the DOJ still wished to convict him, they would have to move for a retrial.

Re:This is bullshit (5, Insightful)

pigeon768 (589860) | about 5 years ago | (#27493873)

Procedural mistakes should not overturn convictions that are this overwhelming.

Procedural mistakes should absolutely overturn convictions, overwhelming or otherwise.

As it is now, when the police are investigating a crime, or a prosecutor is building a case, they have the capability, legal or usually otherwise, to build a "overwhelming" case against someone who is completely and totally innocent of the specific crime. The reason they don't is partially ideological, but mostly because they know the case would be overturned on appeal, if the first judge even let the evidence be introduced. This is the reason we don't have prisons (gitmo aside) full of people innocent of the specific crime they were convicted for but aren't terribly well liked by the police and DA's office.

Once the court system starts saying, "Well, this guy may or may not be innocent, but he sure does deserve to be in prison," we're all screwed. Initially, only about half of us are screwed, (the people who voted for the other guy) but eventually we all will be.

Hmmm.... (2, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | about 5 years ago | (#27493009)

I don't think there should be a problem with what Stevens did. If the government were prohibited from interfering in the economy, there wouldn't be any incentive for a oil company to renovate a politician's house, of all things.

In such situations, all I have to ask is, "where does the actual use of force come into play?" Answer that, and you'll know who is responsible for the violation of rights. In this case, as in the rest, the force - through selective laws that hinder competition and benefit a select few - is supplied by politicians.

Lying, on the other hand... (1)

brian0918 (638904) | about 5 years ago | (#27493059)

Now lying, on the other hand, is contemptible, and if the charge is true, Stevens should be held to account.

Re:Hmmm.... (2, Funny)

Fallingcow (213461) | about 5 years ago | (#27493233)

If the government were prohibited from interfering in the economy, there wouldn't be any incentive for a oil company to renovate a politician's house, of all things.

Kind of like cutting off your arm to get rid of a hangnail, eh?

Re:Hmmm.... (1)

brian0918 (638904) | about 5 years ago | (#27493973)

Kind of like cutting off your arm to get rid of a hangnail, eh?

A better analogy would be cutting off the ropes that bind your arms.

Lets be clear (4, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 5 years ago | (#27493019)

None of the things Steven's was accused of receiving illegally were false. Just the amount of value in them.

So a $250,000 felon, or a $80,000 felon..either way he still should be a felon by any reasonable definition.

I'll say that the decision to not retry him is reasonable given his age. His record is, ahem, clean, but his tattered reputation is frankly, well deserved.

Re:Lets be clear (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 5 years ago | (#27493363)

If they hadn't (illegally) withheld the video, it's possible the contradiction might've helped get an acquittal though, depending on how strong the other evidence was and who was on the jury. It's true that $80k is still illegal, but confronted by multiple inconsistencies in the witness's testimony, the defense might be able to get the testimony thrown out entirely, or at least bring up doubts about the witness's credibility.

Re:Lets be clear (2, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 5 years ago | (#27493629)

Agreed, he might have gotten an acquittal, but given his own statements saying "asking for this receipt is just to cover our asses" he might not ;-)

in the end I think the result is good enough, he's ruined politically, out of power, and not really worth retrying.

Evidence against Stevens was overwhelming (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493027)

Apparently, prosecutors illegally withheld evidence from the defense that was contradictory to their case.

Perhaps if Stevens was given a fair trial, the jury may have seen things differently.

Re:Evidence against Stevens was overwhelming (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#27493417)

Well, that's the thing, we can speculate, but he was ultimately robbed of his chance to prove his case in court. In cases like this the reputation is indelibly smudge with no real recourse.

Admittedly though, as bad as that is, it beats the other system where prosecutors just try again and again until they get the verdict they want.

botched prosecution, does not mean not guilty (1, Insightful)

Dan667 (564390) | about 5 years ago | (#27493037)

From everything published about this and "tube" Stevens conduct looks like he is guilty. This may even have been botched on purpose as these prosecutors are from Bush appointees.

Not surprising (5, Interesting)

mdf356 (774923) | about 5 years ago | (#27493039)

My father-in-law faced one of the prosecutors in a tax case once. She pulled a lot of the same crap then, harassing witnesses, changing the story she was trying to prosecute, etc.

This is almost certainly like O.J. Simpson, where a guilty man was framed.

Re:Not surprising (1)

PMuse (320639) | about 5 years ago | (#27493433)

Next question: was it deliberate? Was the misconduct deliberately carried out at the behest of Republican appointees in the DOJ to ensure that Stevens would not serve time?

Don't forget... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493513)

"Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity." - Anon

Re:Not surprising (0)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 5 years ago | (#27493473)

This is almost certainly like O.J. Simpson, where a guilty man was framed.

OJ might be a murderer, but I don't remember him framing anyone.

selective enforcement (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 5 years ago | (#27493619)

My father-in-law faced one of the prosecutors in a tax case once. She pulled a lot of the same crap then, harassing witnesses, changing the story she was trying to prosecute, etc.

Exactly. What should be disappointing is not that the case was dismissed, but that much of what went on probably happens in most criminal cases, and it was only because of the political power Stevens wields that the judge decided to call prosecutors on it.

If you want a decent parallel: selective/discretionary enforcement of speed/traffic laws. You can't possibly stop everyone- which works nicely as an excuse for both why you didn't stop the rich white guy, and why you did stop the guy with the turban. Add in "officer's discretion" on whether to write a ticket or warning for a nice cherry on top of the "tools to discriminate" pie.

Proof justice system is a fraud (0, Offtopic)

zymano (581466) | about 5 years ago | (#27493049)

Mr. Stevens is a criminal. The system encourages his behavior. All Congressmen take bribes. You can't get elected if you don't.

Unfortunately, I agree with the decision (5, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | about 5 years ago | (#27493095)

After hearing and reading a bit about the actions of the prosecution, I unfortunately agree with this decision. The actions they took were so egregious that they should not be allowed to proceed.

Now... whether the charges on Stevens should've been permanently thrown out forever, I don't know - that seems a bit much. But you can't consistently withhold evidence from the defense and expect your case to be supported by an impartial judge.

Stevens is almost certainly guilty, from everything I've seen and read, but that doesn't mean he's not entitled to a fair trial.

Re:Unfortunately, I agree with the decision (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 5 years ago | (#27493291)

At this point, he's old, out of power, and largely disposed. As a civilian he can do no more damage. So is it worth it to the feds to pay for a second round of trials and go over the whole case just to prove a point?

That said, I would be interested in seeing an impartial 3rd party investigate the prosecution's team and see what the hell lead a group of professional law experts to botch things up so horribly. Hopefully it was just malice, but if there was even a hint of cronyism, some heads will need to role.

-Rick

Re:Unfortunately, I agree with the decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493861)

>>So is it worth it to the feds to pay for a second round of trials and go over the whole case just to prove a point?

It absolutely is. If a second trial doesn't start, it's a direct message to the citizenry that people in power are not subject to the same laws as the rest of us and that is not how America should be.

Doesn't matter now (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493113)

Losing his job was the worst punishment Stevens could have received. The only downside is now they won't rename the airport.

Total fucking bullshit. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493195)

The man is a convicted criminal and he walks free.

Proof of justice department correcting itself (2, Interesting)

downix (84795) | about 5 years ago | (#27493199)

The Justice Department had a pretty solid case at the beginning, and the Prosecutors bungled it either due to negligence or incompetence. So, the head of the dept changes, reviews, and cans one of the best cases as an example to others in his department that the "no holds barred" approach was no longer acceptable, and that all cases would be held accountable. I tip my hat to the new AG, godspeed in cleaning house, you have a mess on your hands.

Re:Proof of justice department correcting itself (1)

VoxMagis (1036530) | about 5 years ago | (#27493555)

Yes, somehow I'm SURE that the first thing the new Democrat AG did as soon as he walked in his office on his first day was to dig right into this case.

Come on. There were plenty of people reviewing this, including (by at least one report) the FBI. The judge nearly held the prosecutors in contempt during the trial. There was odd stuff going on in the jury pool itself!

Stevens probably was guilty. We'll never know now though, will we?

Jury opinion irrelevant, resistance is futile (5, Insightful)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | about 5 years ago | (#27493201)

Several jurors have told The Washington Post that the evidence against Stevens was overwhelming during a month-long trial that ended in October.

Doesn't matter, and surprised /. would post such a trolling and/or clueless aside. The judge ruled the prosecution mishandled evidence and witnesses. The finders of fact, the jurors, were therefore incapable of reaching a just verdict. Their opinions don't matter, because what they heard and saw has been ruled as hopelessly corrupted by prosecutorial misconduct.

Sense of proportion (2, Insightful)

buck-yar (164658) | about 5 years ago | (#27493295)

This is trolling: Where's the sense of proportion? This was a mutual dealing between two people. It just so happens the guy receiving the favors has a vote in congress. Maybe there's something here, but its like fixing a scratch on the wall in a mobile home.

Compare this against what's happening with taxpayer dollars; Trillions of dollars going from my and your pockets directly into shady Banks, who will lose our money just like they lost their own.

Re:Sense of proportion (2, Insightful)

Verdatum (1257828) | about 5 years ago | (#27493583)

That's up there with the argument of "why are you pulling me over for speeding? shouldn't you be out catching murderers and rapists?" We fight any battles that can be fought. no one makes the claim, "oh we would've noticed it was bad to give money to lousy banks, but we were too busy re-evaluating Ted Stevens' trial."

This wasn't an April Fool's Day gag? (2, Interesting)

funky49 (182835) | about 5 years ago | (#27493343)

I first heard about the case being dismissed on NPR on April 1st. I was assuming it was an April Fool's Day gag that all the news outlets were picking up.

Remember the Hulk tie and the series of toobz! (2, Interesting)

SlappyBastard (961143) | about 5 years ago | (#27493369)

Ted Stevens is awesome. Only in Alaska can a man this corrupt live to 85 and never go to jail. Alaska is the anarcho-capitalist Promised Land.

Who got fired? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27493383)

Surely something of this magnitude, someone got fired, right?

Democratic or Republican prosecutors? (2, Funny)

Glass Goldfish (1492293) | about 5 years ago | (#27493389)

Were the prosecutors Republicans or Democrats? It's one thing to have an impartial prosecution of a politican before an election, but a crooked deeply partisan is unacceptable. He does sound guilty though, but who knows what the prosecutors lied about.

Shennanigans (3, Interesting)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 5 years ago | (#27493563)

I honestly can't believe that as much media attention as that whole rigamarole got that said prosecutors would be able to get away with this kind of mishandling of a federal case.

Well, the thing with home renovations is... (2, Funny)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | about 5 years ago | (#27493569)

Well, the thing with home renovations is that it's not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck.

Especially with plumbing for your home: that's a series of tubes. So, Mr. Stevens was simply suggesting a way for you to not just dump something on.

Re:Well, the thing with home renovations is... (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | about 5 years ago | (#27493719)

My staff sent me an internet about this on Friday, and I didn't get that internet in my email until Monday morning!
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