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By NWV News Writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
February 13, 2012

As if having a politicized -- some say corrupt -- federal justice system weren't bad enough, the misconduct of federal prosecutors has led to the reversal convictions that leave taxpayers penalized for the cost of defending federal prosecutors who botched their cases, according to arguably one of the top legal watchdog groups in the country.

For example, in a case involving the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, in 2008 he was convicted 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.

That year Stevens made Judicial Watch’s list of Washington's Ten Most Corrupt Politicians.

Months after the jury conviction, Attorney General Eric Holder asked the court to reverse it, saying that it could not be supported because of problems with the government’s prosecution.

The government’s case appeared rock solid from the start. Even before the start of the criminal trial, two oil company executives and a lobbyist—cooperating with federal investigators— pled 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.

But lawyers from the Department of Justice (DOJ) eventually admitted they "improperly concealed evidence that could have helped the defense but was not turned over as required by law." A court-ordered investigation concluded that prosecutors had engaged in significant, widespread, and intentional misconduct. At one point the DOJ replaced the entire trial team amid allegations of wrongdoing.

Now a mainstream newspaper reports that the government has spent nearly $2 million to defend the prosecutors who botched the Stevens case. The paper obtained the information from DOJ records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

U.S. taxpayers are left picking up the tab to defend the federal lawyers from allegations that they broke the law involving Stevens, who died in a 2010 plane crash at the age of 86.

According to JW, Justice Department records revealed that its criminal division paid out upwards of $1.5 million since 2009 to private attorneys representing the half-dozen prosecutors targeted by a court investigation into the matter. It also paid $208,000 to defend three prosecutors from a separate finding that they had committed civil contempt of court.

One U.S. Senator quoted in the USA Today article points out that taxpayers are losing twice. “First, the Justice Department committed serious legal errors and ethical missteps in its taxpayer-funded investigation and trial against Sen. Stevens,” said Iowa Chuck Grassley, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “And second, this is an unseemly high amount of money being spent by the taxpayers to defend what appears to be egregious misconduct.”

Holder and the ABA Ten Principles

The ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System represent fundamental building blocks for implementing quality legal representation, according to Holder.

Released in 2002, the principles list the ABA’s recommendations for improving public defense delivery systems. These principles were recognized by the Attorney General as, “an essential guidepost for ensuring that our indigent defense efforts are as effective- and as efficient – as possible.”

To help jurisdictions strengthen state, local, and tribal indigent defense systems, OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance will release $1.4 million of new discretionary grant funding to support projects that help make achievement of these principles a reality. The BJA grant solicitation will be released this spring.

"There is insufficient research on the barriers to effective representation in criminal matters. To address this research gap, the department will invest up to $1 million to fund research projects that contribute to indigent defense knowledge and practice. This research will help policy-makers make better data-informed decisions. The grant solicitation will be released in several weeks" said Holder.

Since its launch in 2010, the Access to Justice Initiative has worked to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status, according to Holder.

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But, some law enforcement officers and prosecutors are suspicious of Holder's loyalties -- and those of his boss President Barack Obama. More than a few believe Holder's speech is intended to keep the flow of money from the coffers of the ABA to the campaign coffers of Obama and other Democrats.

"It's no secret that one of the Democrat Party's biggest financial supporters is the ABA. When the Democrats criminalize or regulate some activity, attorneys are certain to benefit," said former police detective and security firm owner Sidney Franes.

2012 NWV - All Rights Reserved

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Since its launch in 2010, the Access to Justice Initiative has worked to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status, according to Holder.