Holder tells attorneys to keep probing fraud

/ Source: The Associated Press

Attorney General Eric Holder held a series of private meetings with Justice Department attorneys Thursday to encourage them to keep aggressively pursuing public corruption despite the unraveling of the case against former Sen. Ted Stevens.

A Justice Department official said Holder spoke to lawyers in more than a dozen sections and offices at three different buildings. His message to the prosecutors: Assertively push fraud and corruption cases and don't feel you need to sit back because of criticism about problems with Stevens' trial and conviction.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday accepted Holder's request to throw out Stevens' conviction and dismiss all charges against the 85-year-old Alaska Republican because the government failed to provide certain evidence to his defense team.

Stevens, who had served 40 years in the Senate, lost his seat a few days after a jury found him guilty of corruption charges last fall.

Sullivan said he had never seen such mishandling of a case by prosecutors. He took the extraordinary step of opening an investigation into whether the Justice Department attorneys broke the law by withholding evidence, and he encouraged Holder to increase training for new and experienced prosecutors.

Holder told reporters Thursday he's taking "a hard look at a variety of things in the department" as a result of the problems with the high-profile congressional corruption case.

"There are things that we have to take into account given what has happened recently, with regard to training, with regard to resources, and I expect that we'll have some announcements to make to you all in the not too distant future," Holder told reporters in a brief news conference at the Justice Department.

Asked whether he was taking another look at other public corruption prosecutions, such as the conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman or cases against others in Alaska, Holder said he didn't have any reviews under way.

"But I always want to ensure that the Justice Department acts in a way that is consistent with the long tradition of this great department — that we treat people fairly, that if we make mistakes we admit them and that we then take the appropriate action," Holder said.