Conviction Mars Senator's Reputation
A federal jury in D.C. has found Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens guilty of seven counts of lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms, undoing the once-sterling reputation of the 40-year Republican lawmaker and throwing his chances at re-election into serious doubt.
Stevens, 84, has been locked in an election fight with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. If Stevens wins Nov. 4, there is no rule that prohibits a convicted felon from remaining in office, although the Senate could vote to expel him (U.S. Senate Associate Historian Donald Ritchie tells National Public Radio's David Welna that, historically, the chamber has been "very reluctant to expel such members.")
The Nation's John Nichols called the guilty verdict "the biggest news story -- even bigger than that of long-time Stevens ally Sarah Palin's campaign for the vice presidency -- in the state as Alaskans prepare to vote November 4" and The Dallas Morning News' Michael Landauer wondered whether Palin would now call for Stevens to resign.
The Post's columnist Colbert King called Stevens a "nasty and arrogant human being who seems to get his jollies treating people with disdain." He suggested that Stevens's character might help explain why the jury convicted him.
Meanwhile, Patti Higgins, chairwoman of the Alaska Democratic Party, released a statement calling on Stevens to "immediately resign" his Senate seat and the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste called the Stevens trial "just another sad, but not surprising spectacle of corruption and cynicism in the nation's capital," likening it to the cases of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).
The National Journal opines that the verdict virtually seals Stevens's political fate, saying it is unlikely he "could possibly be re-elected a mere 8 days after being convicted of a felony."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a character witness on Stevens's behalf, expressed disappointment with the verdict, adding that he has always found Stevens to be "very honest and straightforward," according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Under sentencing guidelines, Stevens could get up to five years in prison for each count of lying about hundreds of thousands of dollars home renovations and gifts he received from his one-time fishing and drinking buddy, Alaska oil executive Bill Allen.
The Alaska Republican icon had asked for a speedy trial so he could clear his name before Election Day. His conviction follows chaotic deliberations by the 12-person jury, which excused one member after her father died and requested another juror be removed after she had "violent outbursts" as the pool decided the senator's fate.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, Stevens had boldly said he would not step down and that he would win his upcoming bid for a seventh term.
"Put this down: That will never happen -- ever, OK?" Stevens said, according to The Associated Press.
As the guilty verdict on the first count was read, Stevens slumped slightly, reported Erika Bolstad and Richard Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News. When the second count was read, his lawyer, Brendan V Sullivan Jr., reached over and put his arm around Stevens' shoulders.
As Stevens left the courtroom, he told his wife, "It's not over yet."
By Derek Kravitz |
October 27, 2008; 4:40 PM ET
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