Eric Holder, the attorney general of the United States, assisted by prosecutors William Welch, Brenda Morris, Kevin Driscoll and Patty Stemler, has dropped the best April Fool's prank ever:
The Justice Department moved on Wednesday morning to drop all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who narrowly lost his seat last year shortly after being convicted on seven felony counts of ethics violations.
In a stunning development, Justice Department lawyers told a federal court that they had discovered a new instance of prosecutorial misconduct in the case and asked that the convictions be voided. There would be no new trial in the case.
While Stevens' trial, which concluded last fall, was already characterized by more fun, jokes, and hijinks than a barrel of monkeys, with prosecutors concealing allegedly improper contacts with witnesses, and holding back exculpatory documents, this is the best prank yet!
And while I'm sure that this time Ted Stevens is laughing, he's hardly the only fool. Now the joke is on the United States courts, the Senate, the people of Alaska, and most especially the American taxpayer.
Update: Crime and Federalism, which has covered this as well as any blog, fails to appreciate the humor. Even so, the Crime and Federalism round-up of posts on the Stevens case is indispensable.
Update 2: The New York Times article I've linked above states that Justice Department attorney Kevin Driscoll was cited with contempt by the court. This is false or at best highly misleading, and the Times should apologize to Mr. Driscoll. The court initially cited Mr. Driscoll, but withdrew the citation on determining that Mr. Driscoll's role in the case was minimal. I apologize for relying on the Times.