Washington – Nicholas Marsh, who was one of several Justice Department officials under investigation for the flawed 2008 prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, killed himself this weekend.
Marsh was among six Justice Department lawyers under investigation for their handling of Stevens’ trial, part of a wide probe into corruption in Alaska politics. Marsh had been reassigned from the elite public integrity section, and had been working on international extraditions.
Marsh, 37, was married and had no children, said his lawyer, Bob Luskin. The Office of the Medical Examiner confirmed his death, but District of Columbia police were unable to provide additional information about the suicide. Luskin, too, could offer few details, other than to say that Marsh died over the weekend.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to Nick’s family and friends on this sad day,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department of Justice is a community, and today our community is mourning the loss of this dedicated young attorney.”
A jury in Washington found Stevens guilty in October 2008 of lying on financial disclosure forms covering six years in office. The trial, though, was marred by concerns that prosecutors and investigators in the case failed in their constitutional obligation to turn over evidence that might have helped Stevens with his defense.
Stevens lost his re-election bid just days after a jury handed down a guilty verdict in his trial, but he left the Senate as the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history.
Stevens died on Aug. 9 in a plane crash in Alaska at age 86. He’s scheduled to be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
At the request of Attorney General Eric Holder, District Judge Emmet Sullivan in April 2009 dismissed the charges against Stevens, based on the potential prosecutorial misconduct. That move effectively voided the jury’s verdict.
After he dismissed the charges, Sullivan appointed Henry Schuelke III as a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. That investigation remains ongoing, as does an internal inquiry by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
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Sullivan said in a statement that he and his staff were “extremely saddened and shocked to hear the tragic news of Mr. Marsh’s death.” Their “heartfelt thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time,” the statement said.
Schuelke said in an e-mail Monday that he had no comment other than to express “shock and condolences to Mr. Marsh’s family.” He wouldn’t discuss the status of his probe, but Luskin on Monday said it was coming to a close.
His investigation focuses on whether prosecutors withheld evidence that could have aided Stevens’ attorneys in their defense, including the role of a FBI whistleblower and how prosecutors handled witnesses. Sullivan had given Schuelke approval to subpoena William Welch, the former chief of the public integrity section; Brenda Morris, the chief trial attorney in the Stevens case; Marsh, Edward Sullivan, Joseph Bottini and James Goeke.
Luskin said he’s “absolutely convinced” the outcome of Schuelke’s investigation would have exonerated Marsh. The investigation had been an emotional strain on his client, Luskin said.
“It’s just shocking, it’s awful,” he said. “The more so because I think, frankly, we were within shouting distance of having this thing successfully behind him. For it to happen now, of all times, is more than tragic.”