Government must abide by its own laws



By Alaska Standard Staff

Alaskans should be angry. As a result of two motions filed in court yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ,) it appears two crooked politicians will get a second chance at freedom. Directing that anger at Attorney General Eric Holder and the current team of prosecutors, however, would be a mistake. Instead, blame the original prosecution team who failed to play by the rules.

Upon finding irregularities during a review of the prior prosecution, DOJ had to take corrective action. DOJ’s mission is not just to put criminals behind bars no matter the cost. It must defend and protect the rule of law. In this instance, DOJ determined that it had failed to turn potentially exculpatory material over to the defense. For more than 40 years, the United States Supreme Court has said that a defendant has a constitutional right to this information. The Constitution is not a technicality that can be overlooked because the video tape evidence is very compelling.

Pete Kott and Vic Kohring are not off the hook. DOJ requested that they be released pending a remand (or return) of their respective cases to the trial court. While the trial court could subsequently dismiss either indictment, DOJ still has them in its sights. Contrast this with the dismissal of all charges against Senator Ted Stevens. There, DOJ concluded that the prosecutors’ misconduct undermined the entire indictment. Indeed, the exculpatory material withheld from Senator Stevens suggested that the government built its case on a series of lies. Here, DOJ has apparently concluded that the prosecution’s missteps did not reach that level, but nevertheless justice requires a fresh look at the evidence. Angry about that result? Blame the prosecutors who dropped the ball in the first instance – not those trying to clean up the mess.

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