WASHINGTON (CNN) – One day after a federal judge erased the verdict against former Senator Ted Stevens, and criticized the Justice Department's internal ethics office, Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday announced a new head of that office.
Aides to Holder said the change at the helm of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and other announced personnel changes have nothing to do with the Office's internal investigation into the mishandling of the Stevens case.
"It is absolutely not related," said Matthew Miller, the top spokesman for Holder.
OPR, as it is known in Washington, is responsible for investigating allegations of impropriety and misconduct by Justice Department attorneys, and recommending disciplinary action.
All three changes announced involve career Justice Department officials familiar to Holder from his days as Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Holder announced one of his long-time associates - Marshall Jarrett, who heads OPR - will take over as Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. The important post oversees and coordinates activities of the more than 90 U.S. Attorneys offices across the nation.
Officials said Jarrett had been interested in a change after a decade overseeing the ethics unit.
Ken Melson, who heads the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys will serve as acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Mary Patrice Brown who has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney heading up the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Columbia will become acting head of OPR.
"These extremely experienced and capable long time career prosecutors are uniquely qualified to lead these important offices," Holder said in a written statement released by aides.
The changes, described as "a coincidence of timing" come a day after U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan openly complained about the failure of the Office of Professional Responsibility to say anything in the six months that it has been investigating a series of errors by the prosecution team in the botched trial of Sen. Stevens.
A new set of Justice prosecutors apologized to the judge for the government's problems, including critical failures to provide evidence that could have been helpful to Stevens' defense.
But the apology did not quiet the angry judge.
Sullivan announced he was initiating an independent investigation of the original Stevens trial team, and named a non-government independent counsel.
He said he was doing so because the public has a right to know what happened, and he hadn't heard anything from OPR about the internal investigation.
"The silence is deafening," Sullivan declared.
The Justice Department did not respond to Sullivan, but promised to cooperate with the court's investigation.
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