Attorney General Urged to Remove Supervisors Who Handled Sen. Stevens' Prosecution
April 15, 2009
The Honorable Eric Holder, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington , D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder:
I am writing to request that you take immediate steps to remove the current leadership of the Public Integrity Section until both the Office of Professional Responsibility and the criminal contempt proceeding before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is completed. In order to safeguard the integrity of a long list of other investigations and prosecutions, those who oversaw the failed prosecution of Senator Stevens should immediately be placed either on administrative leave or temporarily reassigned to other posts. Upon completion of the inquiries, I urge you take appropriate action as necessary to restore integrity to the Office of Public Integrity.
Shortly after your swearing in, you took quick action to replace the prosecution team on the Senator Stevens case. I commend you for taking that step. Thereafter, you announced on April 1, 2009, that following your review of the case and an examination of information that should have been provided to the defense for use at trial, it was in the interests of justice that the indictment should be dismissed rather than proceed with a new trial.
The Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is currently conducting "a thorough review of the prosecution of this matter." In the meantime, however, the persons who currently lead the Office of Public Integrity, Mr. William Welch and Ms. Brenda Morris, continue to serve as chief and deputy chiefs of that section while this matter is under review.
I call upon you to replace these two persons now, pending the outcomes of your review and Judge Sullivan's criminal contempt proceeding. Just as a police officer is placed on administrative leave following a shooting in the line of duty, so too should these prosecutors be removed from their supervisory authority pending the outcome of the OPR review. Doing so now makes no determination as to whether they are guilty of any wrongdoing. What it does, and what is needed until the cloud of impropriety that hangs over the Office of Public Integrity is removed, is to give assurances that ongoing important investigations and prosecutions are being handled and supervised by persons whose alleged prosecutorial misconduct are not under investigation.
I am attaching a chart that lists some of the more high profile criminal investigations and prosecutions that the Office of Public Integrity likely is playing a role. A number of these have been pending for far too long and seem to have languished in the Office of Public Integrity. In your April 1 statement, you said "The Department of Justice must always ensure that any case in which it is involved is handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice." Taking bold action now to replace the leadership of the Public Integrity Section will give the American people confidence that the important cases being supervised by that office are being reviewed by attorneys who are not tainted by this scandal and are not focused on the major ethical and criminal inquiries that surround them.
At a time when the Obama Administration and Congress are seeking to restore the faith of the American people in their government, the potential prosecutions of public officials should not be jeopardized by association with the scandal that led to the reversal of Senator Stevens' conviction despite ample evidence of his guilt. As I am sure you are painfully aware, the lawyers for current and future defendants will make much of those proceedings. Placing the supervisors on administrative leave or temporarily reassigning them until the investigations of their actions are complete will serve to mitigate potential collateral damage.
I hope that you will see fit to take these precautions in order to help restore the confidence of the nation in its government as a whole and in the Department of Justice in particular.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter.
J. Gerald Hebert