Stevens case probe heats up

The probe into possible criminal contempt and obstruction of justice by prosecutors on the now-abandoned case against former senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) may be heating up.

The special counsel Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed to examine claims of prosecutorial misconduct, Henry Schuelke, was granted subpoena power this afternoon after requesting it from Sullivan. Sullivan’s order is here.

Schuelke was given permission to demand testimony and documents from the head of the Public Integrity Section, William Welch II; his deputy, Brenda Morris; former public integrity prosecutors Edward Sullivan and Nicholas Marsh; two Assistant U.S. Attorneys from Alaska Joseph Bottini and James Goeke; FBI Special Agent Mary Beth Kepner; Bill Allen, the government’s star witness in the case; and his lawyer, Robert Bundy.

Another FBI agent on the case, Chad Joy, alleged an improper relationship between Kepner and Allen. However, it was allegations of deliberate withholding of evidence that led to Justice’s decision to ask that the jury’s verdicts finding Stevens’s guilty of filing false ethics reports be overturned and that the case be dropped.

The availability of subpoena power could put some of those involved in the probe in the position of having to choose between taking the fifth or cooperating, but a source close to the investigation says an internal Justice Department inquiry into the case is ahead of Schuelke’s probe. As a result, those Justice Department employees involved have already had to face a choice about whether to cooperate with the internal inquiry, being run by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

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