The Justice Department said Monday it has removed the legal team that prosecuted former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens from further post-trial proceedings that concern allegations of government misconduct.
The terse announcement, made as part of a larger filing by prosecutors, leaves questions unanswered about the scope of the decision. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to elaborate.
The latest turn of events in the increasingly bitter and messy aftermath of Stevens' conviction in October follows the contempt ruling against three Justice Department attorneys last week by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia.
Sullivan, who presided over Stevens' trial, cited the lawyers for not following his orders to turn over internal Justice Department files about an FBI whistle-blower to Stevens. Sullivan said he would withhold for the time being a decision about how to punish the government lawyers.
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The four-page filing by prosecutors Monday was mainly a public notice that the government had decided to not stand on its claim that the material sought by the defense was protected by attorney work-product privilege, a rule that usually prevents having to turn material over to the other side.
"In deciding to release these materials to the defendant, the government acknowledges the importance of resolving the pending post-trial motions as expeditiously as possible," the prosecution wrote. "By foregoing any further litigation about the release of these documents, it hopes to avoid distractions and remain focused on the post-trial motions defendant has filed – motions that include claims of prosecutorial misconduct before and during his trial."
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