Does the mess that befell the prosecution of Sen. Ted Stevens create such a cloud over the long-running Alaska corruption investigation that it's all but over?
That's a question heard with some frequency since April, when the Stevens case was thrown out and the FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors who were part of the broader Alaska corruption inquiry were themselves put under investigation.
The Justice Department continues to say the investigation is moving forward, though as recently as last week a spokeswoman would provide no details. Aside from assigning new prosecutors to its only Alaska case awaiting trial, the department has not demonstrated much activity in public. Before the Stevens case was dismissed, its record in the corruption prosecutions was a perfect 11-for-11.
Most legal experts who discussed the situation said that the team involved in the Alaska cases since the investigation became public in 2006 has been so tainted that they will be unable to play a significant role in any other case arising from the investigation.
But neither that restriction, nor the embarrassment and demoralization from such a public failure, is reason to stop now, said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center in Washington, D.C., a conservative-leaning watchdog group.
"I can see they're a little singed around the edges, but at the same time, they all take the oath to pursue the evidence of crime wherever it leads, and they do have a duty to the public to the degree that there's people out there that are selling their office in one way or another they owe it to the public to follow up," Boehm said.
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