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Justice Seeks to Drop Case Against Former Sen. Stevens

The Justice Department announced Wednesday it would drop corruption charges against Ted Stevens, the 85-year old former Alaskan senator who was convicted for lying on financial disclosure forms. NPR's legal affairs reporter Nina Totenberg broke the news.

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    First, the case against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. In a surprise move, the U.S. Department of Justice today announced that it would drop all corruption charges against the 85-year-old Stevens.

    The once longest-serving Republican in the Senate was convicted last November for lying on his financial disclosure forms. Soon after, he lost his bid for re-election.

    To guide us through the case, we turn to Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio. She broke the story this morning.

    So, Nina, it was a surprise.

    NINA TOTENBERG, NPR correspondent: It was a very big surprise. I mean, this case has been plagued by allegations of prosecutorial misconduct not just from the defense team, but from the judge in charge of the case.

    So I can't say it was a total surprise that Eric Holder, the new attorney general, might want to review it. But to not only drop the immediate case, but to say we're not going to retry it is a big bomb for the attorney general to drop.

    And I suspect he was doing it, in part, to send a message throughout the Department of Justice. Justice Department officials have told me that he very clearly wanted to do that, that he'd wanted to tell lawyers across the board: Do not play fast and loose with the disclosure rules, because we won't tolerate it.