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Edwards Case a Test for Justice Dept.’s Public Integrity Section

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – After screwing up the case against Sen. Ted Stevens, the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section will get another chance — this time with ex-Sen. John Edwards– to prove it can take down a high profile public figure without any major goofs.

You might recall the Public Integrity Section convicted Ted Stevens on very-straight forward public corruption charges in 2008, only to have the whole thing tossed out for prosecutorial misconduct after prosecutors failed to turn over key evidence to the defense.

“This case is just as important for the government as it is for Edwards,” Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and co-author of “The Prosecution and Defense of Public Corruption” told the Christian Science Monitor.

The Public Integrity Section “certainly understands they’re under the microscope,” he said.

Since the Stevens case, the unit has gotten a new new chief, former New York-based federal prosecutor Jack Smith, the Christian Science Monitor reported. And the Justice Department has ordered training for prosecutors to assure that they disclose key evidence to defense attorneys.

“Will a federal prosecutor ever make another mistake in the course of complying with his or her disclosure obligations?” US Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer asked at a recent symposium, according to the paper. “Of course. We are human – and in an age when the discovery in a single case may consist of terabytes of information, the challenges are significant.”

The paper reports that the Justice Department will have its challenges when prosecuting Edwards. The two-time presidential candidate  has claimed he had no idea his aides spent hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars to hide his lover, campaign videographer Rielle Hunter during the 2008 bid for president.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert J. Higdon Jr. and Brian S. Meyers of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina along with Deputy Chief Justin V. Shur and Trial Attorneys David V. Harbach II and Jeffrey E. Tsai of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.


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