Not So Fast: Suspension Of Stevens Prosecutors Overturned
By: Douglas K. Rosenblum
An Administrative Judge of the federal Merit Systems Protection Board has overturned the suspensions of two prosecutors for their actions in connection with the 2008 trial of the late Senator Ted Stevens. Judge Benjamin Gutman ruled in a 29-page opinion that the Department of Justice violated its own procedures when it suspended Joseph Bottini and James Goeke for 40 days and 15 days, respectively.
Pursuant to the rules of the Professional Misconduct Review Unit, the actions of Messrs. Bottini and Goeke were to be reviewed by a rank and file attorney. That attorney, Terrence Berg, decided that while the prosecutors made mistakes in the Stevens case, those mistakes did not rise to the level of misconduct. Mr. Berg’s supervisor, Kevin Ohlson, disagreed and overruled Mr. Berg’s decision. It was this decision by Mr. Ohlson that Judge Gutman found improper. The Justice Department has the right to appeal Judge Gutman’s decision, but it is unclear whether it will do so.
Senator Stevens was convicted in 2008 for failing to disclose that an oil services firm remodeled his home free of charge. Senator Stevens’ conviction was thrown out upon the request of Attorney General Eric Holder when it came to light that prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, including prior inconsistent statements of witnesses.
Judge Gutman’s full opinion is available at: http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/681231-bottini-mspb-initial-decision.html