Election 2008

senator ted stevens, senator ted stevens Alaska
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Sen. Ted Stevens

Jury Finds Sen. Ted Stevens Guilty of Corruption

October 27, 2008 04:43 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
A jury found Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens guilty on all seven counts of corruption relating to gifts he failed to disclose.

The Verdict

Sen. Ted Stevens’ political future is questionable now that a jury has found him guilty of corruption. According to Reuters, the Republican party’s 40-year senator has been convicted of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms.

The trial has left “an indelible black mark on a lengthy political career,” according to KTUU-TV.

Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each of the seven charges. Sentencing guidelines, however, will likely prevent him from serving a long prison term. The sentencing is set to take place Jan. 26.

For now, Stevens will review his options for appeal and return his focus to the Senate election he faces against Democratic challenger Mark Begich. With the verdict coming so close to Election Day, Stevens is left with “a short window in which to sell Alaskan voters on why they should send a convicted felon back to Congress,” KTUU reported.

If he is elected, the Senate could still pressure Stevens to resign, or expel him from office.

How the Stevens Trial Progressed

The Stevens trial was seemingly plagued by difficulties. Attorneys tried more than once to have a mistrial declared in Sen. Ted Stevens's corruption case. They accused prosecutors of manipulating Bill Allen, a key witness in the trial, to weaken the defense's case. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the prosecution said, "Contrary to all of the theatrics and hyperbole from the defense, no one has attempted to hide evidence or hold back any discoverable item."

Reports also surfaced that Bill Allen's attorney may have been coaching him on the witness stand using hand signals. "It's clear he was signaling an answer to the witness," Judge Emmett Sullivan said in an ABC News article. Sullivan asked Allen's attorney, "Why shouldn't I hold you in contempt of court right now?" Joseph Bottini, an assistant U.S. attorney from Alaska, said he had known Allen's attorney, Robert Bundy, for a long time "and would be surprised the communication was intentional," according to ABC News.

As for Bundy, he has denied making signals to Allen during his testimony.

Stevens' Trial Judge Upset over Witness Handling, Testimony

After prosecutors sent home a key witness in the trial in September, the Washington Post said Judge Emmet Sullivan looked “livid.” He wasn’t told that Robert Williams, a former employee of Veco Corp., was going home. “Why wasn’t I consulted? I’m peeved now. It’s a federal subpoena to appear in my court,” Sullivan stated.

Then on Oct. 2, Judge Sullivan threatened to throw out the case upon learning that prosecutors had revealed last-minute evidence which could clear Stevens of guilt. The issue involved an FBI interview with the prosecution's chief witness, oilman Bill Allen. The government gave Stevens’ lawyers a redacted portion of the interview, but admitted that they had concealed parts of the interview that they shouldn’t have.

Defense lawyer Brendan V. Sullivan said the newly revealed material contains contradictions in testimony from Allen. By law, material that could help a defendant in a trial must be turned over.

“I don’t know how to fully explain it. It was just a mistake,” prosecutor Brenda Morris said. “I am standing here as humbly as I know how. (But) I again will submit to you there is no harm.”

“When the United States of America says, ‘This is defendant’s lucky day because we complied with the judge’s order,’ that is a sad commentary,” Sullivan said in a Los Angeles Times article.

Background: The charges against Stevens; evidence delays

Stevens was accused of failing to report more than $250,000 of “gifts and benefits” from various friends and “favor-seekers,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.

One of those “favor-seekers” is the former chairman of the oil-field services company Veco Corp., Bill Allen. He pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators and was a witness against Stevens.

Before the trial started in September, Stevens' attorneys were concerned about a delay in examining evidence against him. They wanted anything favorable for Stevens, or damaging to witnesses like Allen, turned over before the trial. They cited a past sexual abuse case against Allen, and said it could lessen his credibility. Allen also experienced a brain injury during a motorcycle accident years ago, and Stevens’ attorneys said that, “To date, the government has not disclosed any documents or other information relating to this injury that might allow the defense to determine what impact, if any, the injury may have had on Allen’s ability to recall and perceive the events at issue in this case.”

Stevens pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in Washington, D.C., and also made it clear that he did not want his indictment to get in the way of his re-election campaign. Corruption cases tend to take years, but prosecutors and the judge said they had no problem with moving the case along quickly.

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