If at First You Don’t Succeed…

6 12 2008

This reminds me of that old piece of advice, “Ask for everything. The worst they can say is ‘No.’”

Ted Stevens’ lawyers have asked Judge Emmett Sullivan to overturn the jury’s verdict. That’s right, just toss the verdict out and rule for an acquittal.

And if he won’t do that, then they’ll settle for a new trial. In Alaska.

And if he won’t do that, then they’ll settle for a new trial.

AND they want 6 of the 7 felony counts dismissed because they are the same as the first felony count.

They also asked the judge to allow them to file some exhibits in support of their motions under seal because the exhibits refer to personal information about jurors and to the ongoing investigation by the government into political corruption in Alaska.

This might have something to do with Juror #9 who had “violent outbursts” during the deliberations, and whom all the other jurors wanted off the island. Or, it could have to do with Juror #4 who lied about her own father’s death, and skipped town to watch a horse race. Or, it could have to do with our favorite Juror #11 who has been talking to the press and keeping a blog that describes some interesting goings-on behind the scenes. And now, it appears that the defense has been doing some investigative work that reveals what they believe to be jurors who lied on their forms and failed to disclose relationships with the criminal justice system that could have made them prejudicial against Stevens, and politicians in general.

AND they say that Bill Allen, former CEO of Veco Corp, and key witness for the prosecution lied when he said that the friend of Stevens who was overseeing the renovation said, “Don’t worry about getting a bill. Ted’s just covering his ass.”

Under an earlier schedule set by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, the government has until Jan. 9 to respond to the defense’s post-trial motions. A hearing is set for Feb. 25.

In asking for a new trial, the defense lawyers said Stevens’ trial was fatally flawed with false evidence presented by the government, improper hearsay evidence from a witness who was the “linchpin” of the government’s case, and by jurors who lied to the court and were prejudiced from the start against politicians.

Such post-trial motions are common in criminal trials but rarely succeed before the trial judge, who has ruled upon most if not all of the arguments before. However, they set out the basis for a likely appeal, and could also be used by advocates seeking a presidential pardon for Stevens to assert he was tried unfairly.

Like it or not, the Stevens trial continues. Trialophiles will want to read the entire article in todays Anchorage Daily News.





Juror #11 Revealed!

24 11 2008

Juror #11 at the Ted Stevens trial, the one who filled in as an alternate, after Juror #4 skipped town feigning the death of her father to attend a horse race, is talking to KTUU in Anchorage.

She’s also been blogging about the trial, and the posts are witty, irreverent and downright fascinating.  But she showed a more serious side as “Colleen Walsh”, (her real name), during the three segment interview.  You’ll have to sit through a really bad local commercial for Heritage Art & Frames three times, but here it is:

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

The negative impression left by Stevens and his wife on the jurors was picked up by an observer at the trial who noted, “I think Ted’s toast.”

Yup.

Whether Stevens’ appeal goes anywhere remains to be seen, but there’s still plenty of courtroom drama left in this story.





Ted Stevens AWOL Juror Lied! Fled Trial to Watch Horse Race!

3 11 2008

More from the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department. Remember Juror #9 – the one that all the other jurors wanted off the jury because of her violent outbursts and rude behavior? We thought SHE was the wingnut juror… Not so. Turns out the honor goes to Juror #4 – the one who disappeared during deliberations, later saying that she had to fly to California to attend her father’s funeral.

Her name is Marian Hinnant, and it turns out – no dead father, and no funeral.

Instead, Hinnant had a plane ticket to see the Breeder’s Cup at the Santa Anita race track and didn’t want to miss it, she told the judge this morning, in what sounded like completely irrational and perhaps even delusional remarks.

“I just wanted to go to the Breeder’s Cup,” she told reporters after a hearing the judge held to find out why she left town and lost contact with him, forcing him to replace her as a juror just hours before the jury found Stevens guilty.

Hinnant also told reporters that she would have found the Alaska senator guilty had she remained on the jury.

“He was guilty, but these other guys are just as guilty,” she said, referring to other members of Congress.

Yup, she just wanted to see a horse race and took off, abandoning the political trial of the century that would determine the fate of the longest sitting Republican member of the Senate. Yup, she had a ticket and didn’t want to miss it. In a trial that Stevens has referred to as a “circus”, no doubt he will try find some way to use this bizarre story to try to add legitimacy to his appeal of the verdict.

“She apologizes to the court. In fact, her father did not die,” her attorney said. “The story about her father was just one that popped into her head.

But Hinnant cut in, and in a thick Kentucky drawl, gave a rambling, incoherent and baffling monologue about her former employers in the horseracing industry in Kentucky. She mentioned drugs, wiretaps and horseracing, but made little sense.

“I’m not the one who was selling the drugs, I’m not the one who was doing the drugs,” she said.

The judge let Juror #4 go stating, “I’m convinced you were not able to deliberate.”

Even after it’s over, this trial is still the gift that keeps giving, and it only get’s more bizarre. I know Stevens will complain, but it seems to me he ended up getting a break by getting this wingnut OFF the jury!

Stevens, in a last ditch effort to regain his lost momentum will air a two minute infomercial in Alaska tonight. Is he perhaps hoping to turn this back into…..a horse race?

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Ted Stevens. End of an Era.

27 10 2008

An hour has passed since hearing that Ted Stevens was found guilty on all seven counts, and I have finally been able to coax my jaw into a closed position. After having had the opportunity to discuss the verdict with several fellow Alaskans, I can describe the universal reaction as: stunned. Even those who were happy, were happy through a filter of disbelief, and a realization of the gravity of this verdict. Alaskans regard Stevens, who has been in power since Chrismas Eve 1968, as much more than a Senator. For many, it is as if the elves at the North Pole just learned that Santa was convicted on seven felony counts of reindeer abuse, and selling unsafe toys.

It’s hard to dispute the fact that Stevens has worked hard, and was a stubborn advocate for his fledgling state when he took power. He brought much to the state that anyone with a lesser constitution would never have been able to pull off. And now, stalwart Alaskan icon Ted Stevens has become a frail, almost dottering, 84-year old convicted felon. The mighty have indeed, fallen. So, it is with a mixture of sadness and elation that even Progressive Alaskans view the outcome of this trial.

Power has corrupted. Arrogance has become karma. Justice has been served.

All that said, I have little doubt that Stevens has not been cowed by this experience. It’ll take more than a few goddam lousy felony convictions to get to “Uncle Ted.” Remember, this is the guy who wears Incredible Hulk ties on the floor of the Senate. This is the fist-pounding, curmudgeon that just told Democratic challenger Mark Begich he was “crazy as the Devil” during their latest debate. Ted will not go quietly.

Expect him to go full steam ahead with his campaign. Expect an appeal of the verdict. And expect a few more good chapters of the Ted Stevens story before this is all over.

And, on the other side, expect many many Alaskans to vote for him anyway because that feel that either:

A) This is a trumped up charge and some part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to take down the Alaskan Republican Party or

B) He’s done a lot for the state, all politicians are corrupt anyway, and he deserves a little gravy for all he’s brought to Alaska.

Be reminded that there is nothing legally stopping a convicted felon from running for the Senate, and nothing stopping Alaskans from voting him into office. He can, however, be politely asked to leave by a 2/3 vote of the Senate.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Democratic challenger Mark Begich will win this seat. The most recent polls have the candidates in a dead heat, with Begich showing a statistically insignificant one-point lead over Stevens. Unless there’s a huge unanticipated pity vote, this verdict will tip the election in Begich’s favor.

After witnessing politician after politician in Alaska ride off into the sunset to various private prisons scattered across the Lower 48, we are all struck with that old adage that “power corrupts”. I chatted with Mark Begich the other day and asked him how he was doing. He said he was hanging in there, but that these last few days felt like a lifetime. The next time I see him, I’m going to ask him how he is doing. Then I’m going to grab his tie, and pull him forehead-to-forehead. Then I’m going to look him square in the eyes from two inches away and say, “Don’t. Screw. Up.” The Democrats have a golden opportunity to be the white knights, and restore a modicum of respect to Alaskan politics. But power corrupts unless we are on our guard….however many years, or decades we hold elected office.

So Mr. Begich, be wise, be careful, and treat the Senate seat with care. Actually after four decades, I think you’re going to need a totally new seat. After 40 years, that one is sporting a permanent Stevens butt print, and we need a fresh start.

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Alaska Senior Senator Ted Stevens Guilty on All 7 Counts!

27 10 2008

The jury, which just got a new alternate juror this morning, has found Stevens guilty on all seven felony counts of lying on his Senate financial disclosure reports by not revealing gifts and services totalling over $250,000.

Mark Begich, wherever he is, is doing the Snoopy dance.

UPDATE:

Stevens will still be able to finish out the election, and be elected to office, even though he is now a convicted felon.

The Senate can vote him out by a 2/3 majority.





Ted Stevens Trial Resumes

27 10 2008

Well, it’s Monday, and the Alaskan “trial of the century” resumes. Apparently, Juror #4, who left Washington D.C. last week because of the death of her father, could not be reached over the weekend, leaving the Judge to appoint one of the four alternate jurors to take her place.

The jury must now go back to square one, and begin their deliberations over again about whether Senator Ted Stevens is guilty of seven felony indictments for failure to disclose more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations on his Senate disclosure forms. Two full days of deliberation are lost, but the trial will now continue.

Although it’s impossible to tell exactly where they were in their deliberations before losing – and then regaining – a juror, the jury appears to be moving at a pretty fast clip so far. They got the case Wednesday afternoon and sent Sullivan a note Thursday afternoon asking to go home a little early and saying they had reviewed all of the instructions.

It was a positive development for the jury, which has had more than its share of theatrics since it began its deliberations. The judge took note.

“Everyone was smiling, everyone seems to be in a good mood this morning,” the judge said. “No one appeared to be agitated or displeased. That’s all I have to say.”

Their first day of deliberations last week, jurors asked to go home early because they were stressed and needed “clarity.” The second day, Thursday, 11 of the jurors complained in a note about a 12th juror and asked her to be removed from the panel for being rude and prone to “violent outbursts with other jurors.” The judge resolved the problem with a stern lecture on civility and the jurors left Thursday afternoon, seemingly in harmony.

While it’s fairly common for juries to proceed and reach a verdict with only 11 jurors, less than that is almost unheard of. It’s possible that Judge Sullivan decided to place an alternate, rather than proceeding with 11 jurors, in case Juror #9 acts up again and ends up being removed.





Stevens Trial Stalls.

24 10 2008

The strange and unpredictable Ted Stevens jury is proving to be a challenge. Today, we learned that Juror #4, who went AWOL yesterday night, left the state to attend her father’s funeral.

Without explanation to the jurors, Judge Sullivan dismissed the other 11 at 9:50am today. Reports say the 11 jurors didn’t look pleased. They may just want to get this trial over with. They’ve been living and breathing Ted Stevens and the Girdwood chalet since September 22nd.

Judge Sullivan will hold a hearing on Sunday night to determine whether the juror will be able to return to the trial. Even if she agrees to return to D.C., it is unlikely that the trial will resume on Monday. A postponement until Tuesday, or Wednesday will add considerably to the drama of the trial…at least from an Alaskan perspective.

Many Alaskans hold the opinion that these jurors are choosing who will win the coveted Senate seat in November. Stevens requested a speedy trial so he could “clear himself” before November 4th. Whether his confidence will prove to be justified, we don’t know.

With just one point separating Stevens from Begich in the latest poll, Alaskans now look forward to several more days of waiting and wondering.





Jury Dismissed for the Day at Stevens Trial.

22 10 2008

The jury in the Senator Ted Stevens corruption trial has left for the day. (door closing noise)

They were supposed to leave at 4:45pm, but asked permission to leave early.

The jury returned to Sullivan’s court at 4:25 p.m. Sullivan said they had sent a note.

Paraphrasing, he said jurors wanted to leave early. “Kind of stressful right now – we need a minute of clarity right now.”

No problem, Sullivan said. “Of course I will let you go.”

What does this mean? I was expecting a request for more dry erase markers, or a question about an electrical invoice, or something else. But “Can we go early because we’re stressed out?” I didn’t see that one.

So, what do you think?





Ted Stevens Takes the Stand

18 10 2008

 

Ted Stevens took the stand.  He was reminded by Judge Emmett Sullivan that he didn’t have to take the stand, but Stevens said, it was “an honor and a duty.”  Well, it wasn’t a duty (the whole point of not having to do it), but he did it anyway.  After extensive questioning by his own defense team, who asked about his life and times, and great moments in his political career, it was the prosecution’s turn.

Ted tried to convince the  jury that either:

a) he had no idea what was going on because his wife handles everything “inside the teepee”

b) he knew what was going on, but had no power to stop being gifted against his will

c) Lies, I tell you!  It’s all lies!

Baited with rapid-fire challenges to his integrity, honesty and credibility, Stevens mainly answered “yes” or “no” before a jury that will soon be judging him, and keeping to his story that he didn’t believe he received any gifts from the oil-field service company Veco or its chairman, Bill Allen.

Earlier Friday, questioned by his own attorney, Stevens dismissed earlier testimony from Allen that the senator once acknowledged owing the Veco boss money for the work. He called what Allen said in court “an absolute lie.”

By late Friday afternoon, jurors had gotten a taste of the testy 84-year-old senator, who once called himself “the meanest man in town.”

“Aren’t these e-mails really what you’re doing, you’re covering your bottom?” asked Brenda Morris, the lead Justice Department prosecutor on his case, asking Stevens about how he handled a 2004 press inquiry into who paid for his renovations. The question referred back to the most memorable line of the trial, when Allen testified Oct. 1 that Stevens was just “covering his ass” in asking for invoices he had no intention of paying.

“My bottom wasn’t bare,” Stevens snapped back at Morris.

If the jury, like me, was taken off-guard with an unexpected and unwanted mental image of Ted Stevens’ “bottom”, it can’t be good for the senior Senator.

The growing number of odd gifts, with Stevens explanation in parentheses has grown to include a metal staircase (ugly, didn’t want), giant black furniture (ugly, didn’t want, had cigarette burns), a Viking gas grill (fire hazard), and a massage chair (just borrowed it for seven years…wasn’t really a ‘gift’), and Christmas tree lights (didn’t want the fancy rope lights put up, wanted the ones in the garage that he bought second-hand).

Stevens bristled at times during the cross-examination, having to wait for a question before he could reply. Sometimes the judge intervened. Stevens showed his disdain for Morris’ questions by occasionally responding with inquiries of his own.

“I think you better rephrase your question, your question is tautological,” he lectured Morris in response to a question about renovations to his deck.

And for a brief moment, Stevens and Morris traded roles.

Morris said he knew he was getting gifts when he sought a bill.

“If it’s a gift, why did I ask for a bill?” said Stevens, redirecting the question to Morris.

“To cover your butt,” she replied.

“That wasn’t fair, ma’am,” Stevens said.

Dennis Zaki of The Alaska Report who was at the trial, drops tantalizing clues that the testimony and attitude of Catherine Stevens, and Ted himself, didn’t go over well with the jury.  Check the Alaska Report later today for Dennis’ update….but he says “Ted’s toast!”





Prosecution Wraps it Up in Senator Ted Stevens’ Trial

9 10 2008

The final witness for the prosecution took the stand this morning in the Ted Stevens corruption trial.  The judge allowed prosecutors to call David Anderson, welder, and nephew of former Veco CEO Bill Allen,  He supervised work on Stevens’ chalet.  Stevens is accused of accepting more than $200,000 in renovations on his Girdwood, Alaska residence from Allen, and failing to disclose it on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms.

Anderson detailed the work he and Williams did on the Stevens home, including jacking it up to add a bottom story.

“It took a couple of weeks,” Anderson said. “One of the problems with Girdwood is you got to buy your materials from Anchorage and bring your materials from anchorage. So it’s time consuming for sure.”

Anderson’s testimony delayed the defense case, meaning his lawyers won’t be able to call one of their star witnesses until Friday or later: former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

During this trial, it seems like the prosecution is doing everything possible to tick off the judge.  Sending witnesses home to Alaska without notice, withholding evidence favorable to the defense….  Alaskans have seen plenty of lawmakers get taken down by the FBI in the last two years, and we are used to  a swift kill from the feds. It’s usually clean, decisive and devastating.   We know they can do it…but this one feels different. 

A team of bloggers is there, with an interesting quirky take on all the stuff you won’t hear from the MSM, plus the ins and outs of the prosecutions’ “oops” moments throughout the trial.  Describing Allen’s welding nephew:

His Jack Nicholson baritone picked up noticeably when the prosecutor’s questions turned to the nitty gritty of construction. Everyone else in the room, on the other hand, was falling asleep, doing crossword puzzles, sneaking emails on their Blackberries.

He used terms like roust-a-bout, cribbing and skinning the walls. At one point he even told a joke, that no one else got: “We had a compactor rodeo!” he said, laughing uproariously. He’d been talking about compacting the dirt under the foundation of the garage.

Stevens’ support in Alaska is still huge, despite the first viable challenge to his seat from Democratic opponent Mark Begich.  The outcome of the election may very well hinge on the outcome of the trial.

The defense will start off with their first witness, long-time Stevens friend and supporter Senator Daniel Inouye (D) from Hawaii.

Interestingly, Cliff Groh’s blog “Alaska Political Corruption” which was also featuring blogging from the Stevens trial, and that I featured a few posts ago, has mysteriously vanished…

UPDATE: Looks like the link was bad or updated….HERE it is.  Good.





Stevens Trial Steams On…and a New Blogger is There.

6 10 2008

A new man has pinched his nose and jumped into the shark-infested waters of Alaska political blogging. I’d like to welcome Cliff Groh to the pool. Groh is in Washington D.C. now, blogging about the Ted Stevens trial. His history with Stevens is long, and his knowledge of Alaskan politics is extensive. He is working on a book about the current political corruption scandal uncovered by federal investigation. He understands the dynamics of corruption. He’s a straight shooter.

The name of his blog? Alaska Political Corruption. It’s not catchy or clever, but it gets the point across, and Groh is good at getting the point across. I’m adding it to my blogroll, and will be checking it throughout the trial. Here’s his assessment of the two legal teams.

Not counting the defendant himself, there were 12 people sitting at the defense table or at the bench behind at a hearing last week.

The prosecution also had approximately a dozen people at that hearing.

This massive investment on behalf of Ted Stevens is a far cry from what we saw in the three trials of Alaska state legislators occurring in Anchorage last year. In each of those public corruption cases tried in Alaska, the defendant was outgunned so badly it was embarrassing. It was like a freight train was roaring down the tracks on one man.

This case sets up very differently. With all of the resources expended on Stevens’ defense, this trial is more like two freight trains colliding—and it’s not clear which train will ultimately get the worse of it.

All this fine legal work for Ted Stevens doesn’t come cheap. It’s entirely possible that this defense is costing $175,000 per week during the trial, and that estimate could be substantially low.

$175,000 a week? You could buy a lot of sled dogs, fish sculptures, massage chairs, barbeque grills, generators and home renovations for that chunk of change!





Stevens Will Stand Trial.

10 09 2008

Ted Stevens on Primary Night 2008 in Alaska

Anchorage Mayor and Democratic Senate Candidate Mark Begich

Looks like the best efforts of Ted Stevens’ attorneys came up short. They tried to get his ongoing corruption case thrown out on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, and that some of the charges exceeded the statute of limitations. ‘No dice’, sayeth Judge Emmett Sullivan.

Stevens was charged on seven felony counts for accepting home renovations and gifts in excess of $250,000 from the oil services company Veco, and failing to report them on his senate financial disclosure forms. In 2006, to the shock of Alaskans, the FBI raided Stevens home in Girdwood, a small town south of Anchorage. There were guys in baseball caps and mirrored sunglasses crawling all over the house, which Stevens refers to as ‘the chalet’. They took pictures of the roof, the deck, the gutters, electrical outlets,  the ginormous Viking barbeque grill…you name it. And that was just the outside. Nobody could figure out what on earth was going on.

Turns out that Bill Allen, head of Veco, was handling all the renovations. What a pal.  Stevens, who said that he paid every bill “that was sent to him”, failed to disclose all he didn’t pay for. We have recently learned about other ‘gifts’ he failed to disclose – among these, a new SUV for his daughter, a massage chair, and even a sled dog worth $1000. Yes, we Alaskans have to add a little ‘local color’ to our political scandals.

So, while many Alaskans love and revere Stevens, who has been our senator since 1968, many others think it’s time for him to bow out gracefully. Others think it’s time for him to check in at the grey-bar hotel. There is nobody that doesn’t have an opinion about Stevens.  And whether you love him or hate him, it will seem strange when he is no longer the Senior Senator from Alaska.

Stevens easily beat a flock of competitors in the recent Alaska Republican primary. Despite smelling blood in the water, none of these challengers were even able to come close to toppling this Alaskan icon we know as “Uncle Ted”, and the longest sitting Republican member of the Senate.

But, Stevens, for some inexplicable reason, seems to be benefiting from the recent Palin phenomenon. Palin’s approval ratings have remained virtually unchanged, hovering around the 80% mark both before and after her nomination. (They had dipped to 67% after the Troopergate scandal broke, and then rebounded) However, Stevens, who had trailed the Democratic challenger Anchorage mayor Mark Begich by 13 points in late July, has seen his numbers surge to within 2 points of the challenger – a statistical dead heat.  It’s suddenly a horse race.

So, is it possible that Stevens will actually be re-elected, despite his indictment? Yes. He did, after all, win his primary after he was indicted. Why? I wish I could tell you. The only rationale I have heard is that Stevens has ‘done a lot for Alaska’. This is true. He has funneled mega-doses of federal money into the state, particularly as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has been a bulldog. He even gave that Bridge to Nowhere thing a pretty good shot (with the full support of Gov. Palin, I might add).

MARK BEGICH, Anchorage’s hugely popular mayor, will give him a run for his money in the senate race, though. He is smart, young (46 compared to Stevens 84), and full of energy. He’s progressive (by Alaska standards) which means he is against No Child Left Behind, for drilling in the ANWR, pro-alternative energy, acknowledges climate change, is pro-health care reform, for closing loopholes in the new ethics reform bill, and getting troops home from Iraq.

It was looking like Begich had the whole thing sealed, until this latest Palin bounce, that strangely didn’t affect Palin’s numbers in the state at all. 

But first things first…Stevens’ jury selection will begin on September 22nd.  You know, if it weren’t for this Stevens trial, we’d be sooo bored with politics up here.








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