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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. A blistering new report accuses prosecutors of hiding evidence in one of the biggest corruption cases in recent history, the case against the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.

Investigators say the prosecution deliberately concealed documents that would have helped Stevens in court. He was convicted on false statements charges in 2008 and Stevens lost his seat as the scandal played out, although his conviction was later overturned. Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports now on this latest report in the corruption case.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Two years in the making, the scathing report could be a milestone in the history of prosecutorial misconduct. The report says two assistant U.S. attorneys kept evidence from Senator Stevens that could have backed up his defense and demolished the credibility of the lead witness against him. Investigators weren't talking today, but Brendan Sullivan, who defended the senator, had plenty to say.

BRENDAN SULLIVAN: The extent of the corruption is shocking. It's the worst misconduct we've seen in a generation by prosecutors at the Department of Justice.

JOHNSON: The report is based on a review of 100,000 documents and interviews with prosecutors on the hot seat. It details critical failings by the government as it raced to get ready for the 2008 trial.

For instance, the Justice Department team argued to the jury that the senator accepted pricy renovations to his Alaska chalet from an oil services company executive named Bill Allen.

Prosecutors argued the senator didn't disclose the full value of the gift on his congressional disclosure forms. There was a problem with that, though.

SULLIVAN: Senator Stevens had a handwritten note to Bill Allen requesting that Bill Allen send him a bill. It was the heart of the defense because the note said, send me a bill. We have to do this ethically.

JOHNSON: But prosecutors said they were convinced the senator was simply trying to cover his tracks and they failed to turn over statements from a construction foreman who might have supported the senator's account.

The government team also left the jury with a mistaken impression that Allen had been telling authorities all along that the senator had cooked up a cover story about wanting to pay all the bills. But in fact, the reports says Allen didn't mention that in 55 previous interviews with prosecutors and the FBI, only coming up with that account that helped the Justice Department on the eve of trial.

Finally, the report says prosecutors should have shared information that might have obliterated Allen's credibility: the explosive allegation that Allen had a sexual relationship with a 15 year old girl and then asked her to lie about it under oath.

The report shook the legal community like an earthquake. American University law professor Cynthia Jones says she believes violations of the requirement to turn over favorable evidence to defense, known as Brady in legal shorthand, are all too common.

CYNTHIA JONES: It is incredible that, in such an incredibly high profile case where a sitting United States senator is being prosecuted under the spotlight of the world with, you know, cameras watching and a top notch defense team, that these kinds of egregious Brady violations could occur.

JOHNSON: Everyone seems to agree the Stevens prosecution was infected with errors. The report blames higher-ups in the Bush Justice Department for failing to supervise the case, but lawyers for the lower level Alaska prosecutor singled out today, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, said investigators had been unfair.

Defense attorney Ken Wainstein.

KEN WAINSTEIN: The special prosecutor in this case looked at the mistakes that were made, and without any evidence and without any legal support, just concluded that those mistakes were intentional misconduct.

JOHNSON: But Brendan Sullivan wasn't buying it and neither were many of Stevens' former colleagues in the U.S. Senate. They introduced legislation this afternoon that would make clear that prosecutors are required to turn over evidence that would help criminal defendants.

Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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