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Judge Lifts Contempt|Order in Stevens Case

(CN) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., lifted his contempt order against government attorneys who belatedly produced evidence in Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption case.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Williams ordered Department of Justice attorneys to hand over certain documents to Stevens' defense team.

The former Alaska senator was convicted in October 2008 of lying based on charges that he failed to report gifts on his Senate Financial Disclosure Forms. That conviction was later overturned based on an FBI special agent's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Last January, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the government to hand over correspondence detailing who within the Justice Department knew about the FBI agent's complaint and when they knew it.

When they failed to produce the evidence, three senior government attorneys were held in contempt.

Patricia Stemler, head of the DOJ's criminal appellate division, argued that she was not involved in the prosecutorial misconduct that led Attorney General Eric Holder to drop the charges against Stevens last April.

She asked Sullivan to vacate his February 2009 contempt findings.

Although Sullivan denied the request, he noted that the government "did belatedly produce the relevant information" and "purged the contumacious conduct."

He therefore lifted his contempt order against Stemler and her colleagues, William Welch II and Brenda Morris.

"Ms. Stemler, Mr. Welch and Ms. Morris are no longer in contempt for their violation of this Court's January 21, 2009 Order," Sullivan wrote.

Stevens died in a small plane crash in Alaska on Aug. 9. He was 86.

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