Embattled former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was vindicated Wednesday, when, in a stunning reversal, the Justice Department decided to drop all charges against the Republican.
Stevens, 85, had been convicted by a jury for lying about gifts he received and home renovations. The Justice Department said that, due to improprieties in the trial, the conviction should be dismissed in the interest of justice.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Wednesday explaining the decision to dismiss the charges.
After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial, he said. In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.
Stevens denied any wrongdoing from the start and was narrowly defeated in his re-election bid for U.S. Senator from Alaska. Prior to his upset, Stevens was the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, having held the seat for six full terms. The loss was largely attributed to Stevens' conviction, and the former Senator noted this in a statement.
I always knew that there would be a day when the cloud that surrounded me would be removed, Stevens said. That day has finally come. It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair.
Stevens lost the election to Democrat Mark Begich, who had been the mayor of Anchorage.
Prior to the removal of charges, Stevens was convicted of lying on Senate financial forms and not disclosing more than $250,000 in gifts, including extensive renovations to his Alaska home, although he remained a popular figure in Alaska politics.
He was found guilty of seven counts of making false statements on financial disclosure documents.
Stevens was charged with knowingly and willfully scheming to collect thousands of dollars in gifts from 1999 to 2007 while not reporting those gifts on his senate disclosure forms, including a new first floor, garage, deck plumbing and wiring to his Girdwood, Alaska, home, according to the indictment.
He was also accused of concealing gifts from the oil company VECO and its CEO Bill Allen and using his Senate office to do favors for VECO.
Stevens denied the charges, proclaiming his innocence and releasing a statement after his July indictment that he was saddened.
I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator, Stevens said in the statement. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.
Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, issued a statement following the announcement that the Justice Department was withdrawing the indictment.
The decision of Attorney General Holder to withdraw the indictment against Ted Stevens shows clearly that he is committed to the rule of law, regardless of politics, Leahy said. This decision should give all Americans confidence that the Justice Department will pursue public corruption investigations and prosecutions aggressively but fairly.
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