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Justice Dept. Lawyer Exonerated, Back With Public Integrity Section

A Justice Department lawyer has returned to the unit that prosecutes sensitive public corruption cases after being transferred more than two years ago in the aftermath of the botched case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Edward P. Sullivan, who had been working on international affairs at Justice Department headquarters since June 2009, will appear in federal court in D.C. today as a member of the government team handling the sentencing of Trevor Blackann, a lobbyist and former GOP Senate aide. Blackann pleaded guilty for failing to report $4,100 in tickets and other gifts he received in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Sullivan is listed on the court docket as one of the attorneys from the department's Public Integrity Section, which had come under fire for failing to share evidence with the defense team representing Stevens. The violations in that case enraged the trial judge and prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to walk away from the corruption conviction of Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the Senate.

Brian Heberlig, a lawyer who represented Sullivan in the investigation of the Stevens prosecutors, told NPR that Sullivan had been cleared by ethics authorities.

"The Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility completely exonerated Mr. Sullivan," Heberlig said. "He should not have been included in the investigation of the Stevens matter in the first place, as he was not on the trial team, had no decision-making authority, and exercised sound judgment in his supporting role. Now that he has been vindicated, Mr. Sullivan has put this matter behind him and is rightfully back prosecuting cases for the Department's Public Integrity Section."

Sullivan is also helping to handle a new bribery and fraud case unveiled last week against Utah-based government contractors who allegedly gave $1.2 million to a program manager overseeing Air Force procurements.

NPR reported last year that two other Alaska based prosecutors had been the subject of adverse findings in a draft report by ethics investigators at the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility in connection with the Stevens case. That internal process is not yet complete and the prosecutors, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, continue to work for the federal government. A third member of the trial team, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide last year as the investigation continued.

Stevens and four others died in August 2010 when the plane they were in crashed in Alaska.

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Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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