APRIL 01, 2009
Notorious for orchestrating the shameful pardons of a fugitive financier and a pair of jailed terrorists during the Clinton Administration, the nation’s attorney general has voided a corrupt Alaska senator’s multiple felony convictions.
Attorney General Eric Holder has filed a motion to reverse the jury convictions of Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, who last fall was found guilty of seven felonies for hiding tens of thousands of dollars in gifts—including a major home renovation—from an oil company seeking lucrative government contracts and favorable legislation.
National Public Radio broke the story and posted Holder’s motion as well as a Justice Department statement on its web site. In it the attorney general explains that Stevens’ conviction cannot be supported because of problems with the government’s prosecution. After considering the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, Holder’s statement says, it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment.
Held in Washington D.C., Stevens’ trial took about a month and the senator, who has represented Alaska since 1968, even testified on his own behalf. The jury deliberated for only five hours before convicting Stevens, who blamed prosecutorial misconduct for the unjust verdict. Stevens subsequently lost his reelection and vowed to appeal the convictions.
The government’s case seemed rock solid from the start. Before the trial started two oil company executives and a lobbyist—cooperating with federal investigators—had already pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and federal corruption charges. The operators of the huge oil services company called VECO admitted paying nearly half a million dollars in bribes to various Alaska lawmakers.
This is hardly the first demoralizing slap in the face delivered by Holder to federal prosecutors in a high-profile case. As Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general, he orchestrated the last-minute pardons of millionaire commodities broker Marc Rich and two domestic terrorists from the Weather Underground serving lengthy prison sentences.
Rich had fled the country to escape prosecution for tax evasion, racketeering and trading with the enemy and outraged prosecutors described his criminal indictment as the biggest tax fraud case in the history of the United States. Weeks after the Rich pardon, Holder was quoted in a major newspaper as saying: “I’m done. Public life’s over for me.” A White House Chief of Staff under a previous Democrat president said the scandal proved the “ethical atmosphere” under Clinton had sunk to an incredible level.
Holder also orchestrated the violent Miami raid on the house of a Cuban boy’s (Elian Gonzalez) family. Along with his boss, Attorney General Janet Reno, Holder ordered heavily armed federal agents to illegally break into the home of Elian’s relatives to take the boy in 2000. The Good Friday raid victimized dozens of peaceful supporters and left a lasting bitter taste in the Cuban exile community.
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