Stevens Corruption Trial To Begin Today
The public corruption case against longtime Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is set to begin this week, with the political future of the former Appropriations Committee chairman hanging in the balance.
Prosecutors filed seven corruption charges against the 84-year-old Stevens on July 29, accusing the Republican icon of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and favors from a now-defunct Alaska oil firm. While prosecutors say Stevens didn't grant political favors in exchange for the sweetheart car deals and home improvements, they allege Stevens didn't report the monies on his Senate financial disclosure forms. Jury selection is scheduled for today.
Stevens has continued to urge the public to reserve judgment against him. "I am innocent of the charges against me, and I think the trial will show that," he said last Friday.
Stevens has asked that his trial be finished before the Nov. 4 general election, where he is seeking a seventh term but facing a tough challenge from Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, who has pulled ahead of him at the polls.
However, Stevens might have some things going for him. His defense team has been allowed to look at the medical records of the government's star witness, former VECO Corp. chief executive Bill Allen, to see if brain injuries suffered during a 2001 motorcycle accident affected his "ability to recall past events," The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Journal also noted that Stevens's attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. of Williams & Connolly LLP, has represented several high-profile clients, including Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal.
Criminal defense attorneys gave Stevens's tactic of speeding up the trial date mixed reviews but told The Post's Del Quentin Wilber and Paul Kane that his attorneys are likely to argue that the lack of a bribery charge shows the lawmaker didn't do anything wrong and that his aides filled out the financial disclosure forms, not Stevens.
But Allen, who has pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges and has testified at two trials of Alaska lawmakers, might prove to be a tough witness to handle. "The trials portrayed a raucous, frontier atmosphere in Juneau, the state capital, where Mr. Allen and his lobbyists set themselves up in a liquor-stocked hotel suite and summoned legislators to direct their votes on oil issues," The New York Times reports.
By Derek Kravitz |
September 22, 2008; 12:03 PM ET
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