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Judge drops contempt in Stevens case

Feb. 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A federal judge has let one U.S. Justice Department attorney off the hook for a contempt citation over the handling of former Sen. Ted Stevens' case.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia said attorney Kevin Driscoll shouldn't have been among the prosecutors he cited for failing to turn over documents to Stevens' defense team, the Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

Sullivan said Driscoll wasn't responsible for not following his earlier order to hand over documents related to post-trial discovery motions.

Sullivan left intact the contempt citations against William Welch, the head of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section; Brenda Morris, his chief assistant and the lead trial attorney in Stevens' case; and the chief of the Justice Department's criminal appeals section, Patty Merkamp Stemler.

Stevens was convicted in October of seven counts of failure to disclose gifts and services. The Republican is seeking a new trial, arguing that prosecutorial misconduct denied him a fair trial. Following his conviction, Stevens lost his bid for re-election in November.

The judge has said he would not issue sanctions against the Justice Department lawyers until the conclusion of the case.

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