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Conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens Is Thrown Out 440

Posted by kdawson
from the up-from-down-the-tubes dept.
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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Conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens Is Thrown Out

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:10PM (#27492953) Journal

    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.

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:13PM (#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.

      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:23PM (#27493193) Homepage Journal

        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.

        • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:30PM (#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.

          • by Kozz (7764) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:08PM (#27493891)
            Coming soon to a bookstore near you: If I Renovated It, Here's How It Happened.
          • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:22PM (#27494079) Homepage

            Either Simpson was innocent but only a person with millions to hire a dream team legal defense could overcome police corruption and a county willing to bankrupt itself to get a conviction anyway or he was actually guilty but showed that if you have the money for a dream team defense, you can beat any indictment, including murder.

            Either way, as a result of the trial, we know the FBI's crime lab thinks there's a place for voting in science and god knows what other unacceptable practices. Neither possible scenario paints the justice system or police/FBI in a good light.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:48PM (#27494463)

              Very false dichotomy, as there is a third possibility. He was the murder, and the victim of a corrupt investigation. However, he had the wealth and status to hire a dream team defense and beat a murder indictment that he, paradoxically, both deserved (because committed murder) and did not deserve (because the government cannot be allowed to break the law to enforce the law).

              Unfortunately, the way this paradox was resolved is was probably the best we could hope for, jury nullification on the criminal charges and civil penalties leveled against him. The other possibilities are worse in at least one, perhaps multiple, senses of the word "justice". An accquited OJ with, no civil penalties, would have been complete injustice for the murder victims families, and to a lesser extent society at large. OJ in jail would have been a just punishment for the crime murder, but convicting anyone, even actual criminals, as a result of a grossly incompotent and corrupt investigation would make society less just by reducing the State's burden of proof. That's reality for you...

        • 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.
        • 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]
      • Once again I find myself longing for a "+1 Sad But True" mod.
    • 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.
    • 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

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *

      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

  • Is He Guilty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by socalmtb (235850) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:11PM (#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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tchdab1 (164848) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:28PM (#27493283) Homepage

      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bradgoodman (964302) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:48PM (#27493585) Homepage
        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 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:59PM (#27494637)

          I see... so the prosecution should feel free to withhold evidence arbitrarily, in hopes that the defense won't notice...? And if they do, they just get to start their case over from scratch at the taxpayers expense?

          Hate to say it--but if you architect a system prone to abuse--people will abuse it. If you want people to cooperate honestly--they need good incentives to do so. Punishment works just as well--the prosecution should know that if they cheat--they lose *everything*--that way the cost of misconduct is so high as to make it nearly inconceivable.

          I'll admit...I don't find it entirely implausible that the guy may have bribed the prosecution to carry out the case unprofessionally, and used that and double jeopardy as a get out of jail free card (a problem which should be fixed). But discounting that possibility--the system's worked as intended here for once. Innocent or Guilty--someone engaged in an abuse of power to get the guilty verdict--and that crime is so dangerous that they must be let free to set an example to all prosecutors never to engage in such misconduct.

          The abuse of power by the state in a prosecution is more dangerous than the abuse one individual (even representing the state) in any other manner. Quite simply--the verdict was not valid by any conceivable interpretation once it was demonstrated that the prosecution was willing and able to behave unethically, and even if it was valid...an example needs to be made whenever this occurs.

      • Re:Is He Guilty (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Abreu (173023) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:12PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:37PM (#27493441) Homepage Journal
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:40PM (#27494341)
        Our court system still stands on the belief of innocence until proven guilt.

        Yes.

        His guilt was not proven, so he is innocent.

        Now you lost me. So if I kill someone in cold blood. Take pictures of me doing it. Have video. Have 100,000 witnesses. And I get my trial thrown out on a technicality, does that mean I'm "innocent"? Hell no. I'd still be a murderer. Just not a convicted murdered. "Innocent" isn't even a legal term. that you use it like it is a finding of a court shows you have no idea what you are talking about. At best, a court can find you not guilty. And even that is just saying that they were unable to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That's what they find, not "innocent." Someone is either guilty or innocent based of fact. Either they did what they are accused of or they didn't. No court can ever change that. The court can only decide, based on information available, whether that can be proven. If they find the opposite of what really happened, that doesn't change reality. You can be innocent and be found guilty. It happens all the time. You can be guilty and be found not guilty. That happens all the time too. And the presumption of innocence has nothing to do with that.

        The presumption of innocence is a guideline for treatment during trial. Not before. Not after. Not outside the courtroom. Not in public opinion polls. Just for how the court should act after trial has already started until it is complete. Anyone that gives it any more weight than that has no idea what they are talking about.

        And if you are wondering why, think of it this way, if the cop presumed everyone innocent, then they'd never be allowed to arrest anyone, after all, you don't arrest people you believe to be innocent, that's unethical and illegal. And when setting bail, do the judges say "well, we think you are innocent, so we'll let you go on your own recognisance"? Hell no. They set bail on the presumption of guilt. It's just the treatment during trial and only during trial that's effected. They let you dress in a suit to look good, rather than dragging you in front of the jury in a jail suit, which would prejudice them against you. They force the burden of proof on the prosecution. They give you in-trial concessions only to help you mount an effective defense. It was never meant to be something that warped reality to force innocence upon those who are not. It was never meant to be something that alters my freedom of thought and speach (OJ is a murderer, even if he was found not guilty, and Stevens is a corrupt bastard, even if his conviction doesn't stick). It is a court guideline to be used in trial only for how to treat them during the trial, and nothing more.
  • It wouldn't surprise me.

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

    • 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 i

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Improv (2467)

        Republicans, like Democrats (and virtually every other political movement), are not a hive-mind. There are all sorts of voices in the party, from individuals to political factions. It is entirely possible that he was attacked by other Republicans for political or personal reasons, because some factions needed a scapegoat, or alternatively that this was literally just a normal trial with no political railroading.

        I don't believe Double Jeopardy applies in these situations (but IANAL).

  • YRO? Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325) <akahige&trashmail,net> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:12PM (#27492995) Homepage Journal

    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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:55PM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linzeal (197905) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:12PM (#27493001) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:17PM (#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.
      • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:58PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by physicsphairy (720718)

          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

          *Betting on being able to do that is a fairly absurd idea seeing as how you don't know beforehand who will comprise the judge and prosecution. If your assumption is just that everyone everywhere is bribable, well, in that case we're already screwed, and I think bribing six jurors would be easier and cheaper anyway.
          *Unless the system is already rife with corruption, I don't think you're quite considering how dangerous it is to approach said persons with the prospect of a bribe. Most likely, you would just

      • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:07PM (#27493877) Homepage Journal

        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.

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kalirion (728907)

      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 justi

    • Re:This is bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

      by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypher@gmai l . com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:23PM (#27493191) Homepage Journal

      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 (Score:5, Informative)

        by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:25PM (#27493221) Homepage

        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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hedwards (940851)

          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.

    • do what you will" shall be the whole of the law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cube Steak (1520237)

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597)

      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.

    • by pigeon768 (589860) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:07PM (#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.

    • New Trial (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Uberbah (647458) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:11PM (#27494837)

      Instead of dropping the charges, the DOJ should have asked for a new trial - which is exactly what Steven's attorneys were asking for.

      No, the bullshit is that Don Siegleman is still a convict while Steven's walks. The prosecutorial misconduct was far, far, FAR, FAR worse in the case of the former governor than it was for the former senator. Just to start with, the prosecutor who went after Siegleman is married to the campaign manager of Siegleman's opponent.

  • Hmmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:13PM (#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.
    • Now lying, on the other hand, is contemptible, and if the charge is true, Stevens should be held to account.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Fallingcow (213461)

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)

      >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

      While that's a nice thought, I challenge you to figure out how it would be implemented.
      If we force the federal government to do nothing other than exactly what the Constitution lets it, in the most conservative sense -- maintain armed forces for the defense of the land, regulate *actual* interstate commerce, which is to say only settling disputes between st

  • Lets be clear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:13PM (#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.
    • by Trepidity (597)

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      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.

  • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mdf356 (774923) <mdf356NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:14PM (#27493039) Homepage

    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.

    • by PMuse (320639)

      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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)

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

      That's not my recollection at all. My recollection was the police work was sloppy. A detective apparently lied about using a racial epithet. What I do remember is the defense insinuated that the police was out to frame O.J. when it was more likely the case was that the police and the prosecution made major mistakes. The defendant had a high dollar legal team that was able to use these mistakes.

  • by religious freak (1005821) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:17PM (#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.
    • by RingDev (879105)

      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

  • by downix (84795) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:24PM (#27493199) Homepage

    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.

    • by VoxMagis (1036530)

      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?

  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:24PM (#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.

    • If I had mod points, I'd mod you up "Insightful." You hit the nail on the head.
  • by buck-yar (164658) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:29PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Verdatum (1257828)
      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."
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @02:46PM (#27493563) Homepage Journal

    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 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.
  • by greg_barton (5551) * <greg_barton.yahoo@com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:35PM (#27494261) Homepage Journal

    Overturning the Stevens conviction is a cover, but not for what you might think. THe big problem facing the Obama administration is that the Justice Department is radically broken. For the past eight years hiring of career Justice Department employees has been a partisan affair, with conservative political beliefs being the litmus test. Partly because of this a culture of corruption has spread.

    So, how does the Stevens reversal play into this?

    1) Reverse Stevens convictions, getting approval from Republicans, so when you

    2) start overturning other political witch hunts you have cover, and then

    3) use the overturned cases as a way to go after corrupt Justice Department officials, giving you concrete reasons to fire them.

    So, this is just the beginning. Wait and watch.

  • by hwyhobo (1420503) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:11PM (#27494841)

    And at the same time flagrant tax cheats and criminals are nominated to cabinet positions with scantly a snicker from the media. We are at war in this country, and neither side displays even the slightest shred of integrity or ethics.

    Quo vadis, USA?

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:25PM (#27495023) Homepage Journal

    There is also the small matter of the prosecution sending one of their witnesses home to Washington State because he was ill.

    This witness was also on the defense list. The prosecutors sent him home without notifying the defense, which is such an obvious abuse that the judge nearly stopped the trial right then and there.

    But no matter. The prosecution got what they wanted - Stevens is no longer a Senator. That can't be rectified.

    Remember, the rules apply to all of us. When they come to accuse you of something, will you be so trusting of the prosecutors?

  • LOL. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @05:02PM (#27495663) Homepage Journal

    No wonder Stevens got off the hook. When it comes to people in power, there is plenty of reason to believe that the law is more overly applied by
    political opponents than it is applied at all.

    Same thing with Obama's economic team.

    Did the Sec-Treasury cheat on his taxes? Yeah, but, making a big circus out of it was overkill from a political opposition. I would only really be bitter about Obama's people getting all nazi-fied over taxes if they started nailing everyone else to the wall.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

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